Back to school is big business, just ask any parent.
For that reason, the Salvation Army is again this year offering its services to assist those families who need help to get the upcoming semester off on the right foot.
“Last year we helped over 70 students, and I think as more people become aware of the program it will push those numbers up,” said Christine Simmons, community ministries director for the Penticton Salvation Army.
“We try and help as many children as we can, and while we’re not able to supply everything they need, we do the best we can to supplement what the families are able to purchase.
“Education is very important, especially for these people who are probably trying to make a better life for their families than they probably had and break the cycle of poverty.”
She added the organization saw a sharp increase in the number of people using the food bank services this summer, which usually means a similar jump in the need for school supplies.
Often the summer can be an even more expensive time of year for low income earners such as seasonal workers or single parents, according to the director.
“I think a lot of that is because kids are home from school. I think sometimes we don’t realize there is an extra strain on the food budget, so it gets really tough,” said Simmons.
“Kids also need clothing, especially with winter coming on, so in some cases it really is a matter of heating or eating, and then you add in the school supplies...”
While the Salvation Army is not going to let any children go without, officials say they would be very grateful for any help from the community.
Through an arrangement with Staples, people can also make a donation at the store which will be converted into gift cards and given to the organization.
Otherwise cash and donations of school supplies can be made at the community ministries office at 2399 South Main St.
Parents of children who may need assistance must register as soon as possible — the program runs until Sept. 7 — so the needs of individual students can be addressed.
“These days schools are so specific as to what is needed which makes it difficult sometimes for families,” said the director.
“We take the necessary information as to what grade the children are in and we make a list and we try to put together school supplies to add to what the families are able to purchase.
“Also we do have backpacks this year for the kids and we’ll fill them as much as possible.”
She added people who receive the help are very grateful, and where possible often come back to make donations of their own in the future.
“In this respect it seems to be what goes around, comes around,” said Simmons.
Anyone wishing more information about the program can contact the Salvation Army at 250-492-4788.