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Backpack, school supplies, clothing voucher giveaway continues today

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WATERTOWN — Hundreds of local families will be able to start the 2014-15 school year off with less of a financial burden from school supplies and clothing needs.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday, those families lined up at the Watertown Salvation Army, 723 State St., for the annual distribution day of gently used or new backpacks full of starter kits of school supplies collected by the Watertown Urban Mission. The mission’s staple summer program included the Watertown Salvation Army this year, to offer vouchers for clothing at the Salvation Army Family Store, Route 3.

Mission Director of Development Andrew G. Mangione said this is the first time the two nonprofits formed a back-to-school partnership to co-locate school assistance initiatives. He added the event would not be possible, however, without the generosity of local residents, businesses and churches donating items.

“Donors have been responding to Facebook messages and other appeals, meeting the needs that have been changing through this process,” he said. “The biggest demand in the last couple of years is kindergarten through third grade and seventh through 12th grade backpacks. We probably have enough supplies for a hundred backpacks.”

But, the nonprofit still is in need of additional school supplies because the mission gives out backpacks full of supplies throughout the school year as people come through its Critical Needs program.

Chanell Bacon, Watertown, was one of the first couple dozen people to arrive at Tuesday’s distribution event with three of her five children.

“It’s nice they get to decide which backpack to choose,” she said.

About 1,000 pre-stuffed backpacks were available at the event.

Watertown resident Shirley Howard said she has participated in the backpack and school supply giveaway for the past five years.

“It’s too expensive,” she said, regarding her family’s total cost for school supplies. “They always have enough stuff here. We try to buy ahead for supplies, but I have five kids.”

The partnership with the Watertown Salvation Army worked well for her, she said, as she was able to obtain a clothing voucher for her children. Watertown Salvation Army Maj. Robin J. Holmes said vouchers were good Tuesday and today only. Today at the Salvation Army Family Store, many items are on sale for half-off the ticketed price.

Vouchers were given for $15 per child, or a maximum of $50 per family.

“Last year we did our own voucher day,” she said. “I know we’ll see an increase big time.”

The school supply distribution continues from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the Watertown Salvation Army, People must enter through the back entrance, off of North Rutland Street, and have identification.

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