Midtown Raleigh News

Businesses from across the country rally to replace stolen backpacks

A network of businesses from across the country have helped replenish supplies at the Helping Hand Mission after more than 60 backpacks intended for needy children were stolen from the charity.

AdPro Printing & Promotional Products, a Raleigh company, rallied its suppliers to help after Julie Powsner, an account executive there, heard about the theft.

Powsner knew she would make an individual donation to Helping Hand, but she quickly realized she could do even more if she worked behind the scenes as well.

“I wanted to do something positive,” she said. “I wanted to be able to affect my community.”

Powsner let AdPro’s suppliers know what had happened, and they have responded with donations of apparel, backpacks, pens and pencils, hand sanitizer and other items – more than enough to replace the stolen backpacks and the supplies they contained.

Sylvia Wiggins, director of Helping Hand, said the UPS deliveries from locations around the country have been nonstop since AdPro spread the word. And plenty of local businesses, from Ruckus Pizza to nearby Target stores, also have made generous donations, she said.

“Everything just looks like it’s coming together from a bad moment,” she said.

Wiggins said it was a relief to not have to turn away families who had signed up to receive the backpacks.

The Helping Hand Mission is a nonprofit organization founded in 1972 by Wiggins. The agency assists needy families with access to food, clothing, furniture and shelter.

Thieves broke into the Helping Hand location in the 600 block of Rock Quarry Road sometime during the weekend of Aug. 17 and stole the backpacks and the nonprofit’s white pickup truck.

Police have since recovered the truck, Wiggins said, but no arrests have been made.