On Wednesday, August 21st, the Salvation Army of Batavia will celebrate Genesee County families at its Back to School Backpack Bash. For several years, the Salvation Army has reached out to Genesee County families, offering backpacks filled with supplies to each child in need. Batavia’s Salvation Army is on track to equip a record number of Genesee County children for the upcoming school year.
“Our goal this year is to provide over 200 children with the supplies they need to start their school year out on the right foot,” said Salvation Army Captain Rachel Moore, Corp Officer and Administrator. Moore and her husband have been administrators with the Salvation Army of Batavia since 2016. “In 2017, we supported 130 children, and in 2018, we supported 180,” she recalled. “This year, we are on hope to support more than 200 children.”
Salvation Army volunteers go above and beyond, tailoring the supplies to each student. “We have small cards with some basic information about each child,” said Moore. “Things like the child’s name, boy or girl, age and grade as well as school. Using school supply lists from each school, our Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary fills each backpack with the specific supplies each child needs.” Moore adds that Wal-Mart and Target, among others, also have supply lists for most area schools available on their websites.
Providing so many filled backpacks is no small undertaking. “Many local companies and organizations sponsor backpacks with us, including Chapin, Graham and The Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary,” Moore explained. “Chapin International, Inc., for example, which is an industrial equipment supplier in Batavia, donated funds specifically for backpacks and school supplies.” Moore noted that many community members spontaneously give donations, too, often walking right in off the street with cash and school supply donations in hand.
“This year, we also worked with Wal-Mart and its national program, “Stuff the Bus,” said Moore, adding that Wal-Mart has a national agreement with the Salvation Army. “They allowed us to stand next to the Grocery Entrance at their Batavia store from 10am until 6pm. We collected supplies and thanked the very generous people of this community.”
Children will receive their backpacks at the Salvation Army’s Back to School Backpack Bash on Wednesday, August 21st. Children, their families, friends, neighbors and community members are invited to attend the bash at the Salvation Army Store on 529 E. Main Street in Batavia. “It will be a carnival atmosphere with cotton candy, face painting, games, slushies and more fun,” said Moore. “Most children pick their backpacks up at the Bash, but we do hold them until the first day of school just in case.”
Moore hopes that by providing backpacks and supplies, struggling families will have one less financial stress to carry. “These families are always very, very grateful,” shared Moore. “When you are living from paycheck to paycheck, and you are faced with this whole list of items on top of things like new shoes and new clothes, it really starts to add up. It can be overwhelming.” Often, this financial stress results in a trickle-down effect. “If we can help remove some of that financial stress, we find it often helps to alleviate emotional stress, as well, and we are happy to be a part of that,” Moore concluded.
“Kids already face so many obstacles; even interacting with other children on a day to day basis can be a challenge,” said Moore. “We often hear so much about bullying, and this is just one more thing we can do to get kids ready for school and set a positive tone for the rest of the year. That is really what we hope to accomplish.”
Moore also encourages families and individuals to connect with additional Salvation Army programs. “We have several emergency programs such as our food pantry and emergency rental assistance,” Moore shared. The Salvation Army also has a youth development program, “Music and More,” which offers a free hot meal for kids every Friday night along with free music instruction.
“At Music and More, we invest in our youth, give them a safe place to be and encourage them to grow in music and the arts,” Moore stated. “We have many instruments here, and we are looking into grant opportunities so that we can secure more instruments and more people for tutoring.” Moore added that, while the Salvation Army has a musically talented volunteer staff, they are always looking for musically skilled volunteers for this program.
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