Debi Shackowski is an allergy nurse by day, but when she’s not in the office at Ear, Nose and Throat Associates, she’s making sure public school students are taken care of.

For 20 years, she’s been the driving force behind a program in Pasco County that provides backpacks full of necessities to under privileged kids.

Debi said several people stepped up to help her as a single mom in need and she wanted to pay it forward.

At first, Debi used her own money. As time passed and the need increased, she started getting help from friends and area businesses.

“The backpacks are filled with all the essentials for a child from k through 12,” Debi said. “Sad to say many of our children live in the woods and so we provide more than just basics. Shampoo, cream rinse, body soap, face soap, tooth paste. Tooth brush, mouthwash.”

Last year, more than 100 volunteers filled 446 backpacks. This year, 683 were donated to students. All told, it cost more than $8,000 to pay for all the essentials. Next year, Debi aims to hand out 1,000.

Debi is in the process of creating a non-profit organization to help her continue to provide backpacks. And its name will have special meaning for her.

“It’s going to be called ‘Marjorie’s Hope’, in memory of my younger sister who passed 18 years ago,” Debi said. “She was killed by a drunk driver.”