Salvation Army gives kids school supplies, clothes – and confidence

This is part of a weekly series that highlights a grant provided by the Foundation.

The Salvation Army of Centre County is distributing about 600 backpacks to local children.

It’s back-to-school time!

And though kids might not be so excited to trade in their lazy summer days for class work, they probably are looking forward to the shopping. There’s nothing like a new backpack, new clothes and new school supplies to make kids feel less reticent about going back to school.

 

But for families on a tight budget, back-to-school needs often fall through the cracks.

“Every year, all the kids come in with new shoes and new outfits and new pencils. If you have holes in your shoes, you feel inferior before you even try to start learning,” said Capt. Pat Niedermyer, an Officer at the Salvation Army of Centre County. “That attitude will go right over to what you’re learning. You’ll be too worried that ‘I’m not dressed as nice as the next guy’ to focus on learning.”

Luckily, the Salvation Army’s Back-To-School program eases this burden.

“It gives children who wouldn’t normally go to school with a decent backpack and decent clothes on their back a chance to do that and feel good about themselves,” Niedermyer said.

On Saturday, Salvation Army volunteers took more than 400 kids and their families shopping, providing each child with about $90 to spend on new clothing. The organization also purchases backpacks, and acquires school supplies through donations from community members and organizations.

After the shopping trip, the kids and their families attended a carnival, which Niedermyer said is designed to provide a safe, family-friendly atmosphere in which families can take a break from their daily stress and take part in activities that they wouldn’t normally be able to afford on their own.

“They enjoy games, a puppet show, pony rides, face painting, and more. They have a good time,” Niedermyer said. “And then we give them their backpacks that night.”

Niedermyer estimates that by the time this school year rolls around, the Salvation Army will have given out 450 sets of clothing and 600 backpacks.

When they first started out, in 2000, the number of children served was just 72. Niedermyer says the increase in families looking for these services is partly due to word-of-mouth about the program and partly due to its expansion from helping just State College residents to helping the entire county, but more so due to financial instability and layoffs that have occurred during the recession.

In its most recent round of grants, the Centre County Community Foundation provided the program with $10,000.

“We really appreciate the fact that the Foundation gives us money to continue this work, and it’s probably because of them that we increase the number of children we can help,” Niedermyer said. “We have a great support system.”

To learn more about the Salvation Army of Centre County and its Back-To-School program, check out their website.

-Erin

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