"The need is still there"

Volunteers with the Stillwater chapter of Altrusa International were in for quite the surprise in 2018, as hundreds lined around the building at Our Daily Bread to receive backpacks for children before the new school year begins. Provided

Stillwater’s Altrusa International chapter has resumed its back to school Backpack Buddies giveaway after taking a year off in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group plans to distribute 800 backpacks filled with school supplies for Pre-K through 12th-grade students 9 – 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Skyline Elementary.

A small army of volunteers will get the backpacks ready the night before.

Altrusa’s Backpack Buddies giveaway usually attracts not just people from Stillwater, but from most of the smaller surrounding towns, Altrusa member Debbie Higgins said.

The effort, which the service organization pulls off with support from other organizations and individuals, was launched in 2018 after some members experienced a similar thing with another chapter.

When Stillwater's Altrusa chapter launched the drive in 2018, its members planned to give away 250 backpacks. Then they talked with the school district and realized that number needed to be doubled.

They were shocked when they arrived at Our Daily Bread Food and Resource Center to hand the backpacks out and found people already lined around the block.

In 2019, they upped the goal to 1,000, adding food packs and miscellaneous household items like laundry detergent. Because they needed more space for people to line up out of the heat, it was relocated to First United Methodist Family Life Center.

After taking a year off because of the pandemic, Altrusa is back at it.

Because the club has gotten smaller, the members have scaled back a little and will assemble and distribute 800 backpacks.

Working on Backpack Buddies is a gratifying thing for Altrusa members and for the community volunteers who help them, some of whom have been showing up each year since it started.

Higgins said they talk with various school officials and with individuals who receive the backpacks to get feedback. They ask if the other items should be included or if the supplies are hitting the mark and truly meeting the need.

So far they have been told to continue doing what they’re doing,.

Higgins urges anyone who needs help with school supplies to come out Saturday and to spread the word to others.

Any bags that are left over will be donated through other organizations or directly to schools.

“Our goal is to give them all away. And we will,” Higgins said. “But we’d like to do it all at once.”

People are asked to enter the parking lot at Skyline Elementary School, 1402 E. Sunrise Ave., from Sunrise and then follow the line through the back lot, exiting on N. Grandview Street.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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