Marion County comes together to fill backpacks

Over 70 backpacks were filled with supplies and given out to kids kindergarten through eighth grade all over Marion County on Saturday. The backpacks and supplies were donated by individuals and organizations throughout the county. This is the first year of the event, and the committee behind it all plans to continue for future years. Provided PhotoMany kids throughout Marion County will be heading back to school this month with brand new backpacks and school supplies, thanks to the generosity of fellow community members.

Thanks to a new program called Back to School Backpacks, Marion County residents are giving back to their community in a big, yet practical, way.

Businesses, churches and individuals gave financial donations as well as purchased supplies for kids who needed them.

A group of women formed a committee, which was headed up by Becky Howard.

Howard and her family moved to Marion from Wichita about a year and a half ago.

“I got involved helping out at the local food bank here where it’s truly neighbors helping neighbors,” Howard said. “My neighbor is Jackie Volbrecht. I asked her how I could get involved in the community, and she suggested working with other women to meet the needs of kids going back to school.”

The committee made some forms to figure out what the needs were and made them accessible to students throughout the county.

For the first year, they decided to focus on kindergarten through eighth grades. They decided to do the basics and in the future, they hope to make it bigger and better. Some of the future needs could be adding PE shoes, haircuts and high school students. Starting with a smaller age group and needs made it easier to meet the needs and to see what those needs were. They focused on those needs for the forms.

“Once we got some of the forms back, we were able to make paper backpacks sort of like ‘angel trees’ so maybe ‘fifth-grade boy, Marion Elementary’ so then someone from the churches or businesses could pick up the paper backpack and go pick up the supplies and fill the backpack,” Howard said.

The paper backpacks were picked up and supplies began to come in. Volunteers could get the backpacks and supplies or just the supplies and put them in backpacks purchased through funds donated to the committee.Whatever people could do helped out in big ways.

“The community was amazing. These individuals and businesses spent their hard-earned money. It’s not like everyone is extremely wealthy. These are all people just wanting to be good neighbors,” Howard said. “We can’t begin to acknowledge everyone, but Marion Ministerial Alliance, the Marion Presbyterian Church, the Marion Christian Church, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Eastmore Methodist, Valley Methodist, Lanning Pharmacy and Tampa Bank were huge contributors.”

The items were collected at various sites. On Saturday, the recipients showed up at the Community Center in Marion and picked up their backpacks.

The recipients could be anywhere in Marion County, although none of the supplies went to Hillsboro students, since their supplies were already covered by Parkview Mennonite Church and Goessel students are being covered by the Goessel Ministerial Alliance.

“We weren’t denying anyone. If there was a need, we wanted it to be filled no matter where they lived,” Howard said. “It was neat to see the kids get them.”

Howard mentioned the impact the community members’ generosity had several times.

“None of this could happen without regular people realizing ‘I could do something here.’ It’s nice for the kids to go back to school with confidence and pride, and parents get some breathing room because August is a rough month,” Howard said.

If people want to help out for any more needs that come up this year or to help start the collecting for next year, they can donate financially to Marion Advancement Campaign (MAC- 503). The checks can be dropped off at the food bank or at County Seat Decorating in Marion. Make sure to reference school supplies. For more information, check out the Facebook page “Back to School with Backpacks” or call Becky Howard at 316-377-9533.

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