Though Summer has only just begun, the Thames Valley Education Foundation (TVEF), United Way, and The Salvation Army are hard at work preparing to support students this September through Best First Day. Last year, the annual community-wide drive was able to deliver over 3,800 backpacks full of supplies to students of all ages in need across the entire Thames Valley district, in addition to Indigenous communities, the LDCSB, and several community agencies. Amid the financial strain many families are facing with COVID-19, there is an anticipated increased need among students for school supplies.

This year to address the need in the community while ensuring the health and safety of participants, we have added a digital shopping experience. We will continue to accept donations of physical backpacks and supplies through our workplace collections and at our drop off locations but will be wrapping up the collection on August 7 to ensure time for proper sanitization of materials prior to getting them out to the students.

Now collecting


  • Backpacks
  • Markers/Pencil Crayons
  • Lunch Bags
  • Pencils
  • Pencil Cases


  • Backpacks
  • Markers
  • Pencil crayons
  • Scientific Calculators

#BestFirstDay Toolkit

Start a collection drive, tell your friends and give local kids a super start to the school year

To sign up as an individual or team, please fill out the form and hit “submit.” We’ll get back to you asap to confirm.

Cash donations received during the collection drive will be used to purchase any necessary items for families and children in need.

For questions or help setting up a collection drive, please contact Aness Symons, United Way Elgin Middlesex, at 519.438.1723 ext 235 or Stephanie Winterton, Thames Valley Education Foundation at 519.452.2000 x 20208

Here you will find resources to help spread the word.

Best First Day how to poster 

Best First Day collection contact poster

Best First Day Drive sign up

Best First Day wrapping paper

Best First Day generic collection poster

Promote your drive on social media and tag us in your posts:

  • #BestFirstDay
  • #schooltools
  • #LocalLove
  • #DoGooders

Making a best first day for every child

In 2001, Natalie Trimble and Chantal McLaughlin, two working moms, started Supplies for Schools in their basement. Their goal: provide backpacks and school supplies for students in need so that every kid can start school ready to learn.

Today, the program has grown into a community-wide school supplies drive coordinated by three community partners – United Way Elgin Middlesex, Thames Valley District School Board and The Salvation Army. Collected backpacks and school supplies are given to local schools for distribution to students in need.

In 2019, Best First Day raised over 3,800 backpacks full of school supplies.

Natalie and Chantal still volunteer with the program, along with many workplace and individual supporters.

Not part of a workplace collection drive? Individuals and small groups can drop-off backpacks here:

Blackwell Shoes, Whiteoaks Mall
Boathouse, Whiteoaks Mall
Carson Public Library
Forked River Brewing Company
Westmount Mall

Alymer Old Town Hall Library
Belmont Library
Elgin Centre Mall, St. Thomas
Fred Bodsworth Public Library of Port Burwell
John Kenneth Galbraith Reference Library, Dutton
Port Stanley Library
Rodney Library
Springfield Library
Straffordville Library
Southwold Township Library, Shedden
St. Thomas Library
West Lorne Library

For general inquiries about setting up a collection drive or making a donation:

Aness Symons
Associate Director, Communications & Donor Experience
United Way Elgin Middlesex
519.438.1723 ext 235

Stephanie Winterton
Development Assistant and Event Coordinator/Community and Corporate Development Assistant
Thames Valley Education Foundation
519.452.2000 x 20208

Becky Thiessen
Volunteer/Program Coordinator
The Salvation Army
519.661.0343 ext 230

For media inquiries:

Jennifer Wain
Director, Communications & Donor Experience
United Way Elgin Middlesex
519.438.1723 ext 228

Richard Hoffman
Public Affairs Coordinator
Thames Valley Education Foundation
519.452.2000 ext 20505

Shannon Wise
Divisional Director of Marketing and Communications  
The Salvation Army

Information coming soon!

Looking for school supplies for your family or someone you may know?

Items collected during this drive will be distributed through the Thames Valley District School Board. Please contact your child’s school principal for more information.

Participating Workplaces


Canada Life

General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada

London Police

St. Thomas Police

TD Bank

United Way Elgin Middlesex

Dakota HalfpennyBest First Day – school supplies drive