Spokane Salvation Army Capt. Kyle Smith has a dream.
“We would like to think there would come a day where every student in Spokane would go to school prepared” with essential school supplies like backpacks, markers and notebooks, he said Wednesday.
Salvation Army and Real Life Ministries are planning to distribute thousands of backpacks filled with school supplies in the coming weeks. But there’s concern that the need will be higher than in years past. To meet that anticipated need, supply drives are under way with collection bins at sites throughout the Spokane area as well as a few locations in North Idaho.
Four distribution days are planned later this month.
“The need is just rising,” said Heather Byrd, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army. “What we are seeing more of is the middle-class families who used to not think twice about buying a backpack. They are coming to us more.”
The Salvation Army started its back-to-school supply drive in 2008. The number of backpacks distributed has grown from 300 to 1,900 last year. This year’s goal is to collect enough for 2,500 to 3,000 students.
“We know for the 2,500 kids we supply with backpacks, there’s probably 10,000 more who need it,” Smith said. “Poverty is real.”
Corporate sponsors have helped the Salvation Army raise thousands of dollars to purchase school supplies, but many more school supplies are still needed, officials said.
The Salvation Army is already fielding daily phone calls from people asking, “When is the distribution?” officials of the nonprofit said.
In addition to handing out school supplies, this year the Salvation Army has teamed up with two other area agencies to offer services at the Aug. 24 backpack distribution. The Spokane Regional Health District will offer free immunizations that day and the Spokane Community Oriented Policing Effort, better known as SCOPE, will hand out free identification cards for the children.
Said Byrd, “We are sort of branding it as a one-stop shop.”
Real Life Ministries has been distributing school supplies in Pinehurst and Mullan, Idaho, for four years. The church plans on distributing 300 backpacks at those two locations. Hundreds more backpacks will be given away at the church’s other sites in Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls.
Gene Jacobs, lead pastor for Real Life Ministries in the Silver Valley, said, “we feel this is a good way to show love to the community.”