Non-profit donates 300 backpacks to kids across Iowa

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG TV9)-- The average child in foster care lives in seven different homes; that's according to the Cedar Rapids based nonprofit, Families Helping Families of Iowa.

On Sunday, the organization held its annual Back to School Rally, where more than 300 fully stocked backpacks were given out.

The kids who received supplies today are either in foster care, approved placement, or have recently been adopted from foster care.

"A lot of times they don't have the things they need to start school," Volunteer Sandy Merritt said.

As an teacher and principal for a combined 43 years, Sandy Merritt has seen, firsthand, the challenges many kids face.

"I saw the difficulties many kids in foster care go through and waiting for foster care," she said.

That's why she decided to volunteer with Families Helping Families of Iowa, as a way to give back to her community.

The back to school drive gives out backpacks stocked with pencils, folders, and notebooks. Volunteers say the best part is seeing the kids' reactions.

"When they get the backpack, look at the box of crayons and know it's a full box of crayons and it's brand new," Merritt said.

All of the supplies are donations from local businesses, churches, community groups or even individuals from across the region.

On Sunday alone, Families Helping Families of Iowa served more than 300 kids. And the goal is to help at least another 100 before the school year begins.

"We focus on children that have been abused or neglected and removed from their homes," Families Helping Families of Iowa, Vice President Amy Jellison said.

Families Helping Families works for donations all year.

Experts say it's common for kids to transition into new foster homes throughout the school year.

And the organization says it's a growing need. In 2015, the organization helped about 2,000 kids, this year the group projects to help about 4,000.

While at the back to school drive, kids also received a free haircut, a new pair of shoes and three outfits from the clothing closet.