AUGUSTA — When Michael “Shu” and Lina Michaud started the Greater Augusta Back to School Program supply drive five years ago with 150 backpacks to give out, after 30 minutes there was not even a pencil.

The next year, after doubling their efforts, they still ran out of supplies.

What they thought would be a “one-and-done” event turned into an annual school supply drive, expanding nearly 100% in size over the past five years.

On Sunday, the Michauds and their team of volunteers will give out 1,000 backpacks to children in the greater Augusta-area for the start of the school year. The drive-through event will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center. Children have to be present in the car in order to receive a backpack.

“Our goal is to make sure every student who starts school in September, as far as their supplies go, are on an even playing field,” Michael Michaud said. “We want to give them the tools they need to succeed.

Sunday’s event is the culmination of a year-long effort and $21,000 in donations. The goal was to raise $30,000, but Michael Michaud said if they include cash donations along with donated items, the total may be closer to $30,000 from the community. It will equal around 1,000 backpacks to give out to students in all grade levels. Michael Michaud said they used school supply list from the local schools to stuff the backpacks.


The Greater Augusta Back to School Program received the Mayor’s Recognition of Excellence — the REX award — at last week’s Augusta City Council meeting.

A girl receives a backpack full of school supplies Aug. 16, 2020, during a giveaway at the Augusta Civic Center. Andy Molloy/ Kennebec Journal

Michaud credits his wife for coming up with the idea for the program.

When she saw the Elks Lodge in Augusta was giving out $1,500 grants five years ago, she obtained one and thought to purchase backpacks and supplies for students in the area. That money, along with a few other donations, funded the start of the program and gave 150 students backpacks that first year.

They saw the need for the program and ran it again the following year, with more donations and help from the community.

Soon enough, the program grew out of the Elks Lodge from the number of items donated, and became a nonprofit along with community partnerships, including one with Hannaford. The grocery store will hand out healthy bags of food to participants who attend the event Sunday.

Now, other towns and cities in the area have started their own programs similar to the greater Augusta program.


“There is a clear need,” Michaud said. “We see a need in almost every community.”

And it didn’t stop there — when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the supply drive turned into an actual drive-through. The program gave out 750 backpacks last year.

Michael Michaud said equipping students with tools and school supplies will translate into the classroom and said 60% of students in the Augusta-area will start school at a poverty level. He gave the example of students who goes into class with a new backpack, highlighters and pencils can “hang their heads high.”

With tools to success, Michael Michaud believes students are the “future of the community.”

If all goes well, he said, and the pandemic is a “thing of the past,” the program would like to expand and offer free haircuts, eye exams, among other free services for children in the area. Michael Michaud said his time on the Augusta Board of Education and his current city council position made him open to his surroundings and made him want to “grow a program to help every kid in every aspect to make sure they have every opportunity to succeed.”

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