ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — At the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, there is a room full of school supplies. They are a luxury far too many families cannot afford. The Backpack to the Future drive helps 2,400 local children start the school year prepared.

Our Persons of the Week, Himanshu Karvir and his wife Swati Patel, have made the drive their annual passion project. They help collect hundreds of backpacks every year. “Just to find out there was such a huge need for supplies like pencils and notebooks was really surprising to me,” Himanshu said. “That’s what drives my wife and I, is we have to help people in Buncombe County. We have to help our neighbors. That’s where it starts.”

Himanshu’s the general manager at the Holiday Inn – Biltmore West on Smoky Park Highway. He also chairs the Executive Committee at Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. Around this time of year, he calls friends and business contacts to ask for school supply donations.

“I was just trying to call and see,” he said on the phone earlier this week. “You know, you’ve been supportive of the back to school supplies drive for United Way if you would go ahead and support it this year, as well.”

His persuasiveness makes a huge impact on the drive. “They have complete backpacks for $18 now,” he explained on the phone. “Completely filled.”

Elisabeth Bocklet of United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County says every donation helps remove a world of stress. “None of us like to show up the first day of work without having what we need to do a good job,” she said. “If you’re worried about that, if it’s a stressful thing for your family, you’re walking in with an extra set of baggage to that first day of school.”

“(Himanshu) and his wife and his family have done everything from helping to do pack and sorts, they’ll call up friends and families and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to issue a challenge,'” Bocklet said. “We’re going to donate 100 backpacks. What can you do to help fill that up?”

The United Way makes contributing pre-filled backpacks easy and inexpensive online. Himanshu says growing up in India, he learned the value of education. “No matter what our situation was, they made sure my brother and I had the best education they could afford,” he said. That is why he is happy to pick up the phone for the sake of kids in need.

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