Salem Health provides 3,500 new backpacks to 31 schools

More than 350 employees with the Salem Health Medical Clinics teamed up to collect 3,514 new backpacks and school supplies for 31 area schools, plus the local Salvation Army.

“The personal funding people have put into this is about $40,000,” said Bahaa Wanly, Salem Health chief operating officer and Salem Health Medical Group vice president. “The coordination that’s come with this is pretty amazing.”

The backpacks and supplies will end up with hundreds of elementary school students from families in Marion and Polk counties that are not able to afford them. The supplies included everything from pencils, pens, and erasers — to scissors and notebook paper.

“This truly makes it worthwhile to come to work,” said Ralph Yates, DO, Salem Health chief medical officer. “It’s more important than anything else that we do, frankly — more affirmational.”

This year’s effort marked the fifth anniversary of the backpack drive and nearly doubled 2017’s total. Salem Radiology Consultants became a community partner this year and helped expand the effort’s reach.

“We really appreciate the time and effort and work that everyone has put into this project for the benefit of our children in Salem-Keizer,” said Tara Baldridge, Bush Elementary School principal. “It’s overwhelming and we can’t thank you enough.”

Health and well-being starts with the young. The backpack drive is just one more way Salem Health employees support healthy lifestyles and community, even outside of work.