Ann Bradshaw came to the Salvation Army on Monday afternoon hoping to get much-needed help with school supplies for her two boys, who start classes Thursday.
Instead Bradshaw and her children faced the realization that they’re not the only ones in need of help in tough economic times.
Hundreds of families were turned away from the Salvation Army’s annual school-supplies distribution, 45 minutes after the event began. After 30 minutes, all 300 backpacks filled with supplies were gone, and families still in line had to settle for partial supply lists.
“Nobody wants to send their kids to school empty-handed,” Bradshaw said. “I’m just glad some families got what they needed. I’ll just have to come back tomorrow and see what happens.”
But unless huge quantities of supplies are donated overnight, Salvation Army officials aren’t optimistic about what they will have to distribute today.
While more supplies were donated this year than in years past, the need is also greater.
More than 800 kids were helped last year with back-to-school items. Officials this year expect more than 1,000 students.
“This year is unique because of the economy. People are hurting and people have lost their jobs,” said Kyle Smith, the officer in charge of Spokane’s Salvation Army branch on East Indiana Avenue. “There are people in line who normally would be donating supplies to us. Instead they are here.”
Smith said supplies were collected on behalf of the Salvation Army by Rite Aid, Fred Meyer, Shopko and Dollar Stores. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office also collected a slew of items.
After the backpacks were gone, volunteers loaded paper, pencils, crayons and whatever was left into gift bags for distribution. About 644 families were served before supplies were exhausted, officials said. Some only received partial bags with a few of the required items on back-to-school supply lists.
Aaron and Trisha Kaiser were surprised to hear that the supplies were gone when they arrived just a half-hour after the start. The event was supposed to continue until 7 p.m.
“Last year we spent $30, but this year we don’t even have enough money to pay our bills,” Trisha Kaiser said. She said her family will return today in hopes that additional supplies will be available.
“We’ll just do what we can. We always have,” Kaiser said.
Smith said officials were going to spend about $1,000 on supplies Monday evening for distribution today.
“We will have something to distribute, but it’s not going to be a lot,” Smith said. “People think of the Salvation Army as a place to get help. Hopefully, we are able to do that.”