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Urban Mission collecting school supplies for August distribution

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The end of the school year means summer, freedom and vacations for students, but the next couple of months will serve as a labor of love for the Watertown Urban Mission’s Critical Needs Program.

While the program sets aside donations of school supplies and backpacks year round, its effort to gather items for its annual giveaway are ramped up to coincide with stores’ summer bargains.

“As the summer progresses, there are a lot of great deals that come up,” said Andrew G. Mangione, development director. “If a parent is buying for their kid and has the means to buy for another, that makes a huge difference.”

Critical Needs Coordinator Joanna J. Fassett said parents who plan to purchase a new backpack for their child for the next school year have the option to donate the gently used backpack to the agency. She said the agency is trying to get a head start on backpack and school supply collection so staff and volunteers can stuff backpacks for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Last year’s event provided about 1,200 backpacks full of supplies to needy children.

“I expect there to be more this year,” Miss Fassett said. “I’d like to have 1,300 or 1,400 backpacks ready to go this year.”

That means more support is needed from community members, community groups and businesses to ensure children receive basic supplies for the start of school. Miss Fassett said backpacks and supplies that are given away are intended to be starter kits.

“It’ll have all the basics,” she said. “It can buy the parents some time to get the rest of the items, if needed.”

Items being collected include gently used or new backpacks for all ages, and the following supplies: pencils, pens, crayons, markers, highlighters, colored pencils, dry erase markers, lined paper, spiral notebooks, index cards, one-inch binders, calculators, pencil boxes, rulers, scissors, glue sticks and hand sanitizer.

Miss Fassett said if people would like to contribute to the campaign but don’t want to shop for supplies and drop them off at the mission, 247 Factory St., they can make a financial contribution toward the effort. For more information, call her at 782-8440.

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