St. Vincent de Paul's annual school supplies drive starts Friday

Children of low-income families will head back to their classrooms in September with free backpacks full of new school supplies, thanks to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

The charitable organization will kick off its annual school supplies drive Friday.

Supplies will be distributed to families Aug. 11-15 at the St. Vincent de Paul Society, 2424 N. Pacific Highway. That week, parents and children may pick up the supplies from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday or from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday in the dining room. The evening hours were added this year for working families.

Kids from struggling families need and deserve the supplies, which are required by area schools, said organizer Bob Christian.

"We think it's important that (poorer children) are on an equal footing with other children who are more gifted with money," he said.

Local school districts provide St. Vincent with a list of required supplies for each grade level, and the bags are filled accordingly. The society has purchased $50,000 worth of rulers, papers, binders, calculators, crayons and more, he said.

Fundraisers and community donations were coupled with a sizeable discount from Medford's West Main Bi-Mart store. Each grade-specific bag will have $40 worth of items, including backpacks for those in kindergarten through sixth grades, said co-organizer Debbie Christian.

The federal poverty level is $20,650 for a family of four. Last year more than 1,900 students received assistance from the back-to-school program. This year St. Vincent's is anticipating giving out 2,100 bags, said Bob Christian.

"All of the kids are happy," he said. "Some of them are more happy than others. They continue looking through their bags like they're Christmas presents."

Parents must provide proper identification. Those who bring in an Oregon Health Plan or Oregon Trail Card automatically qualify for the free supplies. Those who do not receive government assistance are asked to provide documentation of their income, along with personal identification and documentation for each child. Birth certificates, student body cards or Social Security information are all acceptable forms of identification, officials said.

Volunteers are needed to help hand out the supplies; those interested may call 772-3828.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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