As her 9-year-old daughter’s legs sagged under her new backpack and school supplies, a big weight was lifted from Erica Durbin’s shoulders.
“This means a lot,” Durbin said Wednesday morning at the Salvation Army’s annual backpack giveaway. “I was feeling pretty stressed about getting school supplies before I came here.”
Her daughter, Lorraine, cared only that her new backpack was blue and big enough to carry her supplies this fall at Whitman Elementary.
As the Durbins walked out, the waiting line stretched for three blocks around the Salvation Army building on East Indiana Avenue.
Many families had arrived shortly after dawn.
Despite the unhealthy air, some parents were forced to bring asthmatic children too young to be left at home. Many wore masks – the need is that great and the program lasts for one day or until the 5,000 backpacks are gone.
For Tiva King and her four children, the program means a savings of at least $100. Asked what she would do without it, King shrugged.
“I don’t know,” she said with her three sons, Donovan, Devin and Drevon and daughter Essence, in tow. “Without this, I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
With that question answered, the biggest one remained: Will 5,000 backpacks be enough?
“We’ll see,” said Stan Parrish, a volunteer with the backpack program since it began in 2010.
Last year, the Salvation Army stocked 4,800 backpacks; by day’s end, only 60 remained in what has become the group’s largest community outreach event.
As it turned out, about 1,000 backpacks remained Wednesday. Beginning Thursday, those will be available at the Salvation Army food bank at Indiana Avenue and Lidgerwood Street.
Backed by hundreds of volunteers and an $80,000 fundraising effort, the backpack giveaway “is about restoring a healthy community,” said Salvation Army Major Ken Perine.
“It’s about being part of the community and especially helping our kids’ success,” Perine said.
“Going to school costs a lot of money,” Perine said. “A kid going to school is like a businessman going to work without a briefcase or a laptop.”
The effort is year-round, said Perine, who urged the public to consider the need during the holidays.
In other words, the Salvation Army bell is ringing for children.
Most of the funds came from primary sponsor Cenex/Zip Trip, which contributed $50,000. Avista gave $10,000 along with about 75 volunteers, while Molina Healthcare gave $10,000, Banner Bank $5,000 and Washington Trust Bank $3,000.
Other groups are pitching in this week to help children.
The eighth annual School Shoes for Kids drive is collecting shoes for students in grades K-8 through Friday.
The shoes will be distributed at the Outreach Center, 1906 E. Mission Ave., from noon to 7 p.m. Aug. 17, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 18.
One Heart Spokane is holding a back-to-school event on Saturday, where children in grades K-6 will get a free haircut, shoes, hygiene items and lunch.
Sites include the West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St., Grant Elementary, 1300 E. Ninth Ave., and One Heart Center, 1827 E. Pacific Ave.
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