Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministry is expecting a big jump in demand their back to school backpack program this year, going from almost 400 to 500 backpacks.
The backpacks are filled with school supplies, and given to kids in need as they head back to class in September, explained executive director Mark Stewart.
Registration for the program has been extended, and families are invited to sign up to get a backpack for their children, Stewart said, referring the public to the Sally Ann Facebook page.
Stewart said his staff can see how COVID-19, and the resulting economic downturn, have put more financial stress on local families.
The bag lunch program run by the Salvation Army, for example, went from 500 lunches per week to about 2,500 per week, for the last three months of the school year.
Bee Schroeder, the ministry’s community and family services advocate, said there are more first-time families using the Salvation Army. They indicate they’re impacted by job layoffs and business closures.
“The families that I’m seeing have never used our services before, but they are [now] because someone in the family is not working,” she said.
There is a cost of approximately $100 per backpack, and the program is supported by the Ridge Meadows Community Foundation, Staples, and private donors.
Stewart said the Salvation Army will also be donating 10 laptop computers to students, and is trying to get more, because there is an obvious need.
He noted the Salvation army has not been able to run fundraisers because of the pandemic, losing the annual Coldest Night of the Year and trivia night, as examples. The annual Dignity Breakfast, which would normally be held in the fall, is also in doubt.
He asks people interested in donating to visit their website, www.ridgemeadowssa.ca, or for the backpack program donations can be made in-store at the local Staples.