OWATONNA — With school starting in about a month, the Salvation Army in Owatonna wants to ensure that all Steele County students have a good start.
To do this, the organization will be giving 500 backpacks filled with school supplies to children grades K-5 in Steele County next week as part of their backpack program that started in 2004.
“We do this for families that have fallen on hard times so that their children won’t have to show up to school without supplies,” said Candy Buck from the Salvation Army board.
Buck said the backpacks will include basic school supplies like binders, folders, colored pencils, crayons, highlighters, dry-erase markers, pencils and pens. She said they aim to pick up the more expensive items on a student’s shopping list in order to help alleviate some of the financial burden parents may be feeling.
New this year to the program, the Salvation Army is requiring families to fill out an application that can be picked up either at the Salvation Army Thrift store in Owatonna, the Steele County Clothesline in Owatonna, or the Blooming Prairie Youth Club. Applications should be turned in to the Salvation Army Thrift Store by Friday, Aug. 3. Buck said these applications will not only be for the organization’s records, but will also assure that those who come to the distribution day will not leave empty-handed.
“We have been running out of backpacks,” Buck said about the last couple of years, adding that the distribution days have also been very chaotic. “But anyone in Steele County can apply.”
The funds for the backpack program come directly from the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign that occurs every winter during the holiday season. Buck said that something truly special about that campaign is that the funds raised go directly back into that same community, largely in the form of the backpack program.
“This program means a lot to the children, it means they don’t have to show up empty-handed and can really feel a part of the class,” Buck said, stating that her own children once benefited from the program. “It was very humbling and my kids were very grateful to not have to think about whether or not they have supplies.”
Backpack distribution for Owatonna and Medford will be from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 9, at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. The distribution for Blooming Prairie and Ellendale will be on Wednesday, Aug. 8, at the Blooming Prairie Youth Club with times still to be determined.
For those interested in helping the Salvation Army with this program, Buck said there is still a need for volunteers to help stuff the backpacks. The backpacks are currently scheduled to be filled at Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna on Monday, Aug. 6, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
“We will take whatever time people can give,” Buck said, encouraging people to come out for even as little as one hour. “We are short about 40 people. We currently have only 10.”
For more information on the backpack program, the application process, or how to volunteer, contact Candy Buck at (507)201-2300. The Salvation Army Thrift Store is located at 1810 S. Cedar Avenue in Owatonna.