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 Kaiser Permanente representatives along with Mark Anthony-Ruiz (second from left) giving backpacks to ABCUSD students, Kaiser donated over 170 backpacks.

Kaiser Permanente representatives along with Mark Anthony-Ruiz (second from left) giving backpacks to ABCUSD students, Kaiser donated over 170 backpacks.

By Tammye McDuff
Today’s world, let’s face it has run amuck. Every time you turn on the television or read your email or cruise Facebook, there is another community that is erupting into chaos and violence, but sometimes you run across a group of people that want to help and uplift, just because they can.
Kaiser Permanente is one of these organizations that have a team of professionals that desire to see their community lifted up and supported. For the past three years Kaiser has partnered with the ABC Education Foundation helping children begin a new school year with encouragement and support.
As part of their annual backpack and school supply drive, Kaiser Permanente Cerritos Clinic donated 170 backpacks to the ABC Unified School District.
Beginning the first of August, Kaiser Employees and staff began to gather backpacks, filled with the essentials school age students from kindergarten to 8th grade would need to start the new school year off right.
The backpack endeavor began four years ago when Mark Anthony-Ruiz, Vice President of the ABCUSD Education Foundation came to Kaiser with a need. “The first year we began the program,” Anthony-Ruiz said, “it was about a week before school started, when we received information about children in need of school supplies.” That first year the ABC staff filled 268 backpacks and distributed them, the number of donated backpacks this year has grown to over 700 requests. Kaisers first year to donate, they were able to gather 100 backpacks, their second year 125 were donated and this year, raising the bar, they anticipated 150 but surpassed that goal and sent 170 to those kids in need.
Veronica Torres, Nurse for OB GTN / Pediatrics department noted, “I came from a family that did not always have what we needed and this is a way for us to give back. We actually work on this project year round, gathering items and encouraging our staff to donate what they can. We then put them all together and write a personal note that we hope will inspire and motivate the kids.”
“When you concern yourself with others and helping the less fortunate, life become so much more rewarding, and that’s what our team does,” says Mark Zuiderveen, Chief Administrative Officer for Southern California Kaiser and the propelling force behind the backpack drive.  ABCUSD is Kaiser’s partner in their Thriving Schools initiative, working together on various health issues, providing grant funding to work on health and wellness programs, sponsoring the annual 5k and support the school district throughout the year. Over 500 backpacks are collected within the Downey service area.
“The wonderful thing about this drive,” says Rhonda Buss, ABC Director of Secondary Schools, “is that these backpacks don’t identify the children as ‘needy’. Sometimes the generically distributed backpacks look basic and kids don’t like to admit that they are in ‘want’ of anything. This is personalized and is very special.”



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