Back to school with The Salvation Army
As summer winds down, Salvation Army activities shift from camping to school-year programs, with the Army’s Back-to-School (BTS) events creating a transition between these two distinct times of year.
Southwest: The Casa Grande, Arizona, corps held its second annual Back-to-School Haircuts Day, with 14 hairstylists donating their time and skill to 113 children. Last year nine stylists and 66 children participated.
The corps also conducted a school supplies drive. Through the support of local businesses and divisional headquarters, 80 children received a backpack and supplies.
As families grow familiar with the Army’s programs, the Casa Grande Corps anticipates an increase in participation in their youth programs.
Northwest: Brenda Shephard from divisional headquarters participated in a BTS shopping event at Mervyn’s in Tukwila, Washington. She writes: “The little girl with me lit up when told she could choose whatever shoes she wanted—she couldn’t believe she didn’t have to get what I thought would be best. When I told her she could pick out a backpack she just smiled. After carefully inspecting each one, she finally decided on an all-pink princess backpack. It gave me great joy to help a couple of kids choose the clothes and backpacks they really wanted.”
Alaska: For the sixth year, HUGSS (Helping Us Give School Supplies) & Coats for Kids combined the resources of The Salvation Army, Catholic Social Services, Lutheran Social Services, the Anchorage School District and others to provide backpacks, school supplies and winter coats to children in the Anchorage area.
The Anchorage School District estimates that about one-third of the more than 33,000 children in school are eligible for free or reduced cost meals. With more families needing assistance, the support of the community and local businesses, like Wells Fargo, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer and Exxon-Mobil are key to the success of the collection drive. This year a matching challenge grant from Wells Fargo doubled cash donations used to purchase supplies in advance at substantial discounts.
Local dry cleaners are involved, cleaning gently used coats.
Superintendent Carol Comeau, who volunteers at the program each year, acknowledges the importance of the program, stating, “Students perform better in school when they are equipped with the necessary tools and supplies. Learning is something children look forward to and it’s always a delight to see the excitement in their eyes when they come to pick up their school supplies.”
Golden State: In San Francisco, at the seventh annual Back2School Distribution, one of the largest in the city, The Salvation Army helped more than 1,400 children “shop” for donated school supplies. Parents pre-registered for the event and then arrived to shop at their designated time.
“We hear stories all the time about children who don’t attend the first two weeks of school because they are embarrassed that they don’t have new school supplies like the other kids,” said Claire Dunmore, the Army’s Family Services director in San Francisco. “It is crucial that children attend school and we find that if a child has a few new items he/she can show off to friends, the first few days of class are a little easier to navigate.”
New this year, the San Francisco Public Library children’s bookmobile signed children up for library cards and distributed books on site. Local city programs were also present, handing out information on child safety and food stamps. And just for fun, there was face painting, too.
Intermountain: Through Stuff for Students, the Intermountain Division provided backpacks and school supplies to more than 8,200 children in the Denver Metro area, with an additional 2,000 to 3,000 receiving supplemental supplies.
These supplies go to over 300 schools that distribute them to children on the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program; in the Denver Metro area, more than 60,000 children qualify for this program.
The success of Stuff for Students is due to many individuals, corporations and foundations that donated funds and supplies, notably Wal-Mart, King Soopers, Kellogg Snacks and 9News. Hundreds of volunteers and warehouse staff also contributed over 1,000 hours to stuff the backpacks before sending them to the schools.Contributed by Stephanie Gustafson