Summer is in full swing, but classrooms across Indiana are already opening their doors to a flood of students ready to tackle the challenges of a new year. For many Hoosier families, though, the excitement is overshadowed by another emotion: anxiety. Between book fees, new backpacks, expensive shoes, school uniforms, and a growing list of classroom supplies, back-to-school prep can be a costly affair. Families that are already struggling to pay utility bills and put food on the table simply don’t have room in their budgets for these extra expenses.

BTS 2016 cThat’s why The Salvation Army is helping families send kids back to school with the supplies they need to succeed. By hosting collections, working with community partners, and matching local donors with back-to-school programs, The Salvation Army is making it easier for students to show up for the first day of school ready to focus on having a great year.

For the past decade, central Indiana donor Mrs. Lewis has worked with The Salvation Army to help 350 Indianapolis students start the year off in a new pair of quality shoes. Her goal is to give kids the confidence they need to succeed in school, something that Mrs. Lewis understands only too well. She grew up an orphan, never owning a new pair of shoes and well-aware of the stigma that can accompany worn, ill-fitting clothing or shoes. Later in life, when she and her husband were able to build a comfortable nest egg, Mrs. Lewis decided to give back in this meaningful and impactful way.

BTS 2016 dJust days before this annual shoe event, The Salvation Army Fountain Square Corps Community Center held a community day to help struggling families on Indianapolis’ southeast side prepare for school. Earlier in the summer, volunteers had stuffed 400 backpacks with grade-appropriate supplies like notebooks, folders, crayons, and pencils. Each backpack also held special Salvation Army pencil bags, spiritual readings, new socks, and other fun extras. During the community day event, families learned about community resources, signed up for library reading programs, and enjoyed crafting as a family. At the end of the day, each child headed home with a brand new backpack and all the supplies they need for the new school year.

BTS 2016 bPrograms like these are going on all over Indiana, where The Salvation Army is meeting the needs of local students and giving parents a chance to look forward to back-to-school time, rather than dread it. In Sullivan County, 149 children attended a special Back-to-School Blitz, where they were fitted with new shoes and “shopped” for school supplies, back packs, toiletries, socks, and more thanks to the 31 vendors in attendance. Tools for Schools programs across Indiana provide thousands of children in The Salvation Army’s Service Extension counties with the supplies they need for the classroom.

In Kosciusko County in northern Indiana, The Salvation Army has partnered with local retailers and restaurants to collect funds for its School Worx program, which provides more than 300 shoe vouchers for children in qualified households. In Madison, Indiana, the annual back-to-school event included free dental check-ups for kids (watch the event unfold HERE), while in Terre Haute over 600 backpacks are distributed for Vigo County families struggling to make ends meet. The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary in Bloomington takes the lead in local back-to-school efforts, working with other local churches to provide for Monroe County K-12 students.

BTS 2016 aThe Salvation Army also works with local public schools, providing school supplies that social workers will have on hand for children who come to school unprepared. This is another way to ensure that every child in need of assistance has an opportunity to get the all the items on their supply list, even when parents are unable to attend distribution events during the summer.

Thank you to the donors, volunteers, and community partners across our state who are helping The Salvation Army send kids to school with the best accessory for that first day outfit – a big smile!