Backpack Giveaway Runs Out in Half Hour

Brady Smith, Anchor/Reporter

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By Brady Smith

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Linda Vance came to the Salvation Army on Saturday morning to get a backpack for her high school student, and she wasn't expecting to see a sign that said "we're out of backpacks" when she arrived.

"Shocked that it was over so soon," said Vance.

Shocked, because the three-hour giveaway didn't even last an hour.

"It took us about a half hour to run out of 1,022 backpacks," said Tammy Mims with the HD Youth Center.

Mims and other coordinators said 9 large boxes on pallets were full of backpacks at 8 AM, but in minutes, they were empty.

"It was a very large line," Mims said. "It went all the way around the block."

Debbie Mrkvicka, a Salvation Army Volunteer, told us that "people had been here waiting since 6 AM for supplies for their children to return to school."

Mims said the HD Youth center handed out 900 bags last year, but partnered with other area nonprofits to expand the event to serve a larger group of people in Linn County. Each bag is filled with the essentials, depending on the grade and age of the child it's intended for.

"We had pencils and paper and spiral notebooks and crayons, and markers and rulers," Mims told us.

And that all adds up.

Tthe Salvation Army estimates the average family spends about $100 dollars per year for in-classroom school supplies. That doesn't include things like shoes and clothing.

Mims now holds more than 250 unfulfilled voucher cards - each one filled out with a child's name and age to make sure the bag they get will fit their needs. With school starting soon, she's hoping to meet those needs with more donations.

"I would say we probably need 500 backpacks at this time," Mims explained.

Until more bags come in, families like the Vances will have to get by however they can.

"It helps if you can get some supplies and then just add on to it. But if I have to do it the normal way, which is buy it, I'll do it," Vance said.

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