Trade union’s bookbag giveaway took Rock Chapel students by surprise

Members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades delivered more than 650 backpacks stuffed with school supplies to Rock Chapel Elementary School in Lithonia.

Hundreds of Rock Chapel Elementary students received a big surprise just in time for the first day of school on Aug. 6.

The students received more than 650 backpacks stuffed with notebooks, pencils, art and other school supplies, compliments of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT).

The unexpected gift came though a partnership between IUPAT International, Rock Chapel Elementary School, First Book, and many area parents and students.

Mark Komaromi, a spokesman for the union, which represents more than 160,000 painters, installers, and finishing workers in Georgia and nationally, said kick-starting the school year for the kids was a real pleasure.

“Making a positive difference in children’s lives is the ultimate reward for being a good neighbor in our communities,” said Komaroni, who is the union's District Council 11 business manager. 

“From classrooms to apprenticeship pathways to continuing skills development, IUPAT's commitment to learning never, never stops.”  

The Rock Chapel Elementary book bag giveaway is one of four events for IUPAT's PATCH Foundation, which is distributing school supplies to nearly 2,000 kids nationwide. 

Lisa Green, the school’s principal, said reading is foundational to all other knowledge.

“Students who are stronger readers at just 8 years old are more likely to graduate high school,” she said. “We're so grateful that IUPAT International and PATCH share that vision for our students."

Rock Chapel Elementary is IUPAT’s newest community partner. It joins a network of more than 90 partner charities and organizations supported by the union’s Painters and Allied Trades Children's Hope Foundation (PATCH), founded in 2001.

The nonprofit provides educational and medical services to youth. Other partners include hometown chapters of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Special Olympics, United Way, and the YMCA. 

IUPAT’s active and retired members in the United States and Canada work in the finishing trades as industrial and commercial painters, drywall finishers, wall coverers, glaziers, glass workers, floor covering installers, sign makers, display workers, convention and show decorators and other trades occupations.

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