A young girl walked up to the table at the Great Bend Salvation Army store Friday morning, slung her new backpack over her shoulder and left with her face beaming.
Thanks to the Salvation Army and a host of contributors, she and 400 other Barton County students from disadvantaged families will start school this week with backpacks and supplies via the SA’s annual School Supply Drive. The book bags were distributed Thursday through Saturday at the store to those in kindergarten through grade 12.
“Something as simple as a new backpack can make a lot of difference to a child,” said store manager Jane Berg said Friday as parents brought their kids to the shop. The little girl’s expression was proof of that.
“We want every kid to be ready for their first day of school,” Berg said. “Many parents struggle financially just to make ends meet and providing their kids with everything they need to start a new year is often beyond them.”
The backpacks were packed with brand new supplies at Simpson Hall, courtesy of the Meyers Chapel AME Church. Volunteers from the Presbyterian Church packed them and young men from Morton House assisted in hauling the completed packs from Meyers Chapel to the Salvation Army Family store.
According to Berg, all types of school supplies were included, among them three-ring notebooks, spiral notebooks, folders, pencils, pens, crayons, markers, paper, colored pencils, erasers and storage boxes. It is a challenge, she said, to keep up with the back-to-school lists from all the schools in the county.
Berg said there are some items, such as calculators, they cannot provide. As it is, the backpacks cost about $25-30 each and agencies spends about $12,000 on the project.
These new supplies were distributed to families who qualify for the free lunch program in Barton County. The campaign has been around for over a decade.
The financial support from Golden Belt Community Foundation, Credit Union of America, and assorted donations from many other individuals and organizations made the distribution possible, Berg said.