PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Back-to-school shopping can be expensive.
That’s why one local business owner is gifting more than 100 backpacks full of school supplies to students who visit his Pawtucket storefront this weekend.
Joe DeBarros, owner of Support is Key, tells 12 News he’s made it his life mission to help those in need, adding that he knows all too well what it’s like not being able to afford the bare necessities.
“When I grew up, we didn’t have much,” DeBarros said. “My mom, she did everything she could do, but we still struggled.”
DeBarros said his personal experiences are what motivated him to open his business.
“With a little bit of support, it can take somebody to the next level, and that’s what happened to me,” he said. “I got a little bit of support and it took me to the next level and I just keep striving.”
12 News caught up with DeBarros as he was filling backpacks with pencils, notebooks, crayons, glue sticks and other supplies.
All 107 backpacks will be given away on Sept. 5 to any student who stops by between noon and 4 p.m.
DeBarros said the giveaway is made possible by the donations he receives annually.
“We get donations every year,” he explained. “Whatever money we get, we put into the giveaways because I want the people who donate to see that every year, this is what we’re going to do with it.”
This isn’t the only giveaway that DeBarros hosts. He also donates turkeys prior to Thanksgiving to those who can’t afford them and gives Christmas presents to children whose families may be struggling.
And while most businesses have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, DeBarros said his continues to thrive.
“I think it’s the motivation, the hustle,” he replied when asked why his business has been so successful. “I came from a bad past where I was on the streets.”
“Now, this business takes me away from all that,” DeBarros continued. “The problems I had in the past aren’t the same today. I just get up and work and I work for myself. It’s the best feeling ever.”
Visit Support is Key’s website to learn more about the business and the backpack giveaway.