Salvation Army backpack drive beginsPublished 6:38pm Sunday, August 1, 2010
By KATIE JOHNSON
Niles Daily Star
Now that August is underway, school bells can almost be heard as stores begin to stock supplies for the approaching year.
The Salvation Army is asking the public to look in their hearts and toss some extra supplies into shopping carts this summer for its backpack collection drive.
“We really need the support of the community as a whole,” explained Jan Nowak-Lumm, director of caring ministries/social services. “There are sites and churches in the throes right now and doing collections for me.
“It can’t just be the churches’ responsibility,” she said.
According to Nowak-Lumm, the Salvation Army is currently the only entity organizing a public school supply drive in Niles.
“To the best of my knowledge, we are the only game in town now,” she said. “We are the largest public (backpack drive) in Niles.”
First Baptist Church has partnered with the Salvation Army to collect supplies; however, some other churches do hold school supply drives for their members, Nowak-Lumm noted. The Buchanan Area Ministerial Association also has a collection drive, as well as the Cass County Department of Human Services.
The Salvation Army’s annual Back to School Program distributes backpacks and supplies to children in grades 1 through 12 on a walk-in basis. Families may register Aug. 9-13 between 9 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 4 p.m. and they will be handed appointment tickets. The supplies will be distributed the third week in August.
“We are aggrestively looking to serve the Niles and Buchanana and Brandywine school systems,” Nowak-Lumm noted.
She said the number of backpacks distributed varies from year to year, but the demand is currently very high and quantities are limited.
To qualify for the Back to School Program, students must be residents of the Niles, Brandywine or Buchanan school districts. A head of household or guardian must bring a picture I.D. as well as a Social Security card for the recipient and proof of which school they will attend.
“If you come without required documents, you will not be seen,” Nowak-Lumm emphasizes.
There are no income requirements to receive the backpacks.
“We just put it on the heart of the people who are the seekers,” Nowak-Lumm said. “If they truly believe they are in need, that is on the conscience of the seeker.”
To donate to the Back to School Program, drop off school supplies at the Salvation Army, 424 North 15th St. All school supplies are accepted, and they have often been low on notebook folders in the past. Checks will also be accepted.
“I’ll never say no to supplies,” Nowak-Lumm said, adding that every donation will stay in the local school systems.
“Our premise is that anything we are able to do will give finanical relief to these families,” she said. “We are trying very hard to make sure that when people are blessing us with donations that they are truly staying local.”
Nowak-Lumm said that the collection drive is worth it when she sees the expressions on the children’s faces as they get to choose their backpacks.
“It is the coolest, coolest thing,” she said. “When the kids come in for distribution and we let them come in for their backpacks … and man oh man, the smiles that break out on these kids’ faces are so precious. You get to see the joy on these faces.”
To contact the Salvation Army about the drive, call Jan Nowak-Lumm at 684-2660.