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Sunday, September 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  K-12 education

Salvation Army plans backpack giveaway at fairgrounds parking lot

Joshua Schulz of The Salvation Army holds up a flier and talks with Phillip Baker, right, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, outside the Fred Meyer store at 400 S. Thor St., where Schulz and other staff and volunteers were collecting school supplies and backpack donations for an annual backpack giveaway. The Salvation Army will distribute the backpacks Aug. 12 in the parking lot of Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Joshua Schulz of The Salvation Army holds up a flier and talks with Phillip Baker, right, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, outside the Fred Meyer store at 400 S. Thor St., where Schulz and other staff and volunteers were collecting school supplies and backpack donations for an annual backpack giveaway. The Salvation Army will distribute the backpacks Aug. 12 in the parking lot of Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

No one is quite sure what school will look like this fall, but one thing is certain, whether learning takes place at home or in classrooms, kids will need backpacks and school supplies.

While COVID-19 has brought lots of uncertainty to area families, they can still count on the Salvation Army of Spokane to provide those backpacks to kids.

On Aug. 12, The Salvation Army of Spokane, in collaboration with Cenex Zip Trip, will host its 11th annual Backpacks for Kids event from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., or until all backpacks have been distributed, in the parking lot of the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center, N. 404 Havana, St.

This free event will include the distribution of 4,000 new backpacks filled with school supplies to local students, grades K-12.

Of course, like most everything these days, the event will be different.

“Normally, we give out thousands of backpacks right here on our campus at Salvation Army,” said Major Ken Perine. “Forty vendors are here, and we get to see the kids picking up their backpacks.”

The pandemic changed all that.

This year’s event will be a drive-thru at the fairgrounds, and Perine expressed appreciation for the facility stepping up to host the giveaway in its parking lot. There also will be a walk-up area.

“So many parents have been asking online how they can get a backpack,” said Perine. “We’ll have three lanes, and 39 different backpacks chosen by kids and parents in our after-school program.”

According to a news release, in the past nine years, Cenex Zip Trip has raised more than $400,000 for Backpacks for Kids. Perine said that partnership as well as one with Fred Meyer and Avista makes the annual event possible.

Since its inception in 2010, The Salvation Army has distributed more than 40,000 backpacks to local youth, allowing children to return to school with the tools needed to assist in their educational growth.

In addition to the new drive-thru format, a couple of new items will come with the backpacks. Each one will include two face masks. Also, the 40-vendor family resource fair will be condensed into handouts and information given to parents or guardians.

Despite the change in venue, kids will still be able to choose the backpack they want.

Perine explained, “As they’re driving through kids can look out the window and say ‘I want No. 1 or No. 6.’ The backpacks are organized by grade level.”

A walk-up station will be available for families who rely on public transportation.

All backpacks and supplies will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last. Parents or guardians will need to bring the following items: Photo ID for parent or guardian and proof of every child living in your household (school registration, DSHS statement, ID card, medical card, etc.).

An estimated 400 volunteers will be needed to pull the event off.

“When you see a child pick out a backpack they want, they’re so excited and filled with joy,” said Perine. “Every kid should be prepared for success when they start school.”

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