The first time through the line, 9-year-old Michael Hegel received a bag of school supplies, but no backpack – they’d all been snapped up.
But 15 minutes later, in the parking lot of the Salvation Army on East Indiana, he told his dad he was going back. “I heard someone say they now have more backpacks.”
The fourth-grader soon returned holding a new Batman backpack.
He and his father, Gino Kovar, were among 130 families who visited the Salvation Army’s Spokane Family Resource Center on Thursday to receive the free supplies.
Kovar, 31, said basic economics brought him to the annual giveaway. “I work construction and right now, there’s just no work out there. I can use all the help I can get,” he said.
The same limping economy that’s squeezing family budgets has affected the volume of donations, said Christy Markham, the Salvation Army’s development director.
Markham and her associates had to stop handing out supplies early Thursday.
The first batch of 120 backpacks was gone by 10 a.m. Fifteen more were delivered from the organization’s foster care supply room.
By 11:30 a.m. the last of about 330 school supply bags were passed out, and those contained just pencils, paper and glue sticks. The bags should have also contained erasers, binders, scissors, rulers and folders.
Markham said staffers were able to round up another $1,000, from reserves and donations, after the morning giveaway. That money will probably pay for enough supplies for 200 households, or 300 students, today. The distribution will start at 8:30 a.m. and last until supplies are gone.
Each complete bag of school supplies is worth between $10 and $20, depending on whether it’s for a young student (through grade 5) or an older student (grades 6 through 12). Backpacks vary in value.
Donors can still come in person to the Family Resource Center, 204 E. Indiana Ave., to contribute cash or supplies.
That happened Thursday morning. After the final 15 “backup” backpacks went out the door, an unexpected, anonymous donor dropped off nearly 20 more new backpacks at the Salvation Army building.
Markham said she thinks the economy is weighing heavily on more people at this time of year.
“People have to pay bills first, then they set money aside for gas and food. And if they have money left, it goes for extras. And school supplies are extras,” she said.
The annual giveaway started five years ago when Fred Meyer stores offered to collect supplies and turn them over to the Salvation Army for distribution. Shopko joined the effort three years ago.
The 2007 turnout was the program’s largest yet, serving 365 children.
“We did nearly the same number of children and families in three hours on Thursday that we did in two whole days last year,” Markham said.