This past school year brought a number of challenges to our students, families, and businesses, due to COVID-19. While the plans for how students will start the school year this fall are still uncertain, we know that students will still need school supplies, no matter where they are learning.

Friends of Learning is busy planning to provide students in need with basic school supplies. Families are struggling, and the funds may not be there to purchase basic school supplies. The thought of preparing for a new school year brings financial anxiety to many families.

The desire to prevent any student from heading back to school without school supplies provides the momentum for the Friends of Learning Back to School Project. Friends of Learning (FOL) is a collaborative effort, entering its ninth year, between Nicollet County Health and Human Services, the St. Peter Lions Club, the St. Peter Kiwanis Club, and the Salvation Army. The Friends of the St. Peter Library serves as our fiscal agent.

FOL gives our students the tools necessary to begin the school year ready to learn. Since its inception, FOL has served over 3,800 students in St. Peter and rural Nicollet County. This year, we expect to serve over 600 students.

FOL is collecting school supplies and cash donations in St. Peter, Nicollet, Lafayette and Courtland. The collections will continue until Aug. 3.

This community has historically provided unquestioning support for this project. We know that this year will be a challenge for many to contribute. Any amount of support is welcomed.

Our community partners at First National Bank Minnesota, Pioneer Bank, Hometown Bank, CCF Bank, River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic, Mankato Clinic-Daniels Health Center, Nicollet County Government Center, St. Peter Library, Good Samaritan, Family Fresh, ProGrowth Bank in Nicollet, Alliance Bank in Courtland, and Citizens Bank Minnesota in Lafayette host collection barrels. Tax-deductible cash donations can be sent to Friends of Learning, PO Box 156, St. Peter, MN 56082 or through Venmo @FOLBackpack.

Several area businesses are participating in the ninth annual Business Challenge, a friendly competition to see which business can collect the most supplies. Through the generosity of the St. Peter Herald and KNUJ, the successful large and small business will receive a gift certificate to be used toward advertising. The overall successful business will “host” the traveling ruler with the business’ name engraved on the ruler. As you shop in the upcoming weeks, please consider picking up school supplies for this collaborative effort.

We hope to have the community’s support to continue to make this project a success. For more information on the FOL program or to see pictures of barrel locations throughout the community, please check out our Facebook page at @FOLBackpack.

Michelle Zehnder Fischer is the Nicollet County attorney and the chairperson of Friends of Learning.

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