ISHPEMING - Kids all across the country are getting busy getting their back-to-school supplies in order, stuffing new backpacks with different colored folders, notebooks and pencils.
But for kids whose families might not be able to afford school supplies, the start of the school year can look a little less bright.
As a thank you to the community and to give any families who might need it a bit of an extra boost before the school year starts, the Ishpeming Salvation Army is once again organizing a school supplies giveaway to help make sure those kids have what they need to start the year right.
Making sure kids get the right supplies to start off their school year is the goal of the Ishpeming Salvation Army’s backpack program, which is set for Aug. 31. The post is collecting donations of everything from backpacks to pencils to crayons to be distributed to local kids. (Journal photos by Johanna Boyle)
"The only requirement is you come in and sign up ahead of time," said case worker Liz Nevala. "There's no income requirement; it's just a thank you to the community."
The giveaway provides each kid with a new backpack stuffed with the various notebooks, pens, pencils, glue, crayons and other supplies they might need, depending on their grade level.
The backpack giveaway will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Salvation Army office on Division Street in Ishpeming.
All supplies given out to the kids are received through donations from area businesses and individuals, with the organization collecting donations up until the time the backpacks are given away.
In particular, organizers said they are in need of backpacks for all ages, calculators, mechanical pencils and lead refills, black or blue pens and highlighters, although any type of school donation will be accepted.
Around 200 children and teens are provided with school supplies during the annual giveaway in the Ishpeming area.
Although the giveaway is open to all, kids who participate in the Salvation Army's Vacation Bible School, which runs this week from 9 a.m. until noon, Monday through Friday, also will receive backpacks and have the chance to earn extra school supplies as part of the programming.
This year the VBS program focuses on an anti-bullying message, mixed with Bible verses, crafts and other activities.
Placing the VBS week just prior to school starting can help kids get back into the routine of attending school during the day while still enjoying vacation, Nevala said.
Volunteers are also needed to help run the program throughout the week.
"It's a great experience," Nevala said.
However, the start of the new school year also means the coming of colder months in the U.P., with Salvation Army officials and other charities around the area looking at food pantry shelves which have become bare as food prices are going up due to droughts around the country.
In addition to school supply donations, Nevala said the Salvation Army is also looking for donations of easy-to-prepare food items to help restock the pantry's shelves.
"I've never seen our pantry this empty," she said. "People have been donating, but the cost of food is so expensive, people are having trouble making ends meet."
Specifically, the Salvation Army is looking for meat to be distributed to pantry clients, whether that is frozen venison from a hunting trip or ordinary ground beef from the grocery store.
"Any kind of meat people want to donate, we'll take," Nevala said.
The pantry allows clients to receive food once a month and is open Monday through Friday.
"If we don't get more donations, we'll have to cut those hours back," Nevala said.
For more information on donations or on Salvation Army programs, call the office at 906-486-8121.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.