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Backpacks for Kids

Published on -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

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First Call for Help of Ellis County is expecting a 12-percent increase in the number of children who will take part in the Backpacks for Kids program this school year.

The nonprofit group has been fundraising and collecting items at local churches, grocery stores and other businesses to provide school supplies to 650 students. That is an increase from last year's approximate 580 backpacks.

"We just think that the need may be greater this year due to the increases in school fees, and we want to be sure we're prepared for it," said Linda Mills, executive director of First Call for Help.

Mills was referring to a recent decision by the Hays USD 489 Board of Education to raise the student workbook/enrollment fees by $60, raise the activity fees at the middle and high schools by $50, and institute a fee for all-day kindergarten for the first time.

We would hasten to add the pressures on low- and middle-income families doesn't stop at the local level. While poverty rates are increasing statewide, fewer families are qualifying for state assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

We only can hope First Call has the resources to provide enough backpacks this year. At $50 per backpack, even the 650 represents $32,500.

The latest numbers from Kansas Action for Children and the Annie E. Casey Foundation show no fewer than 13.4 percent of Ellis County children younger than the age of 18 fall below the poverty line. There are 37.7 percent of all Ellis County students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, which means there are more than 1,000 children in USD 489 alone who likely could use one of the backpacks full of supplies.

And First Call for Help does not insist on proving financial need; anybody living in the county is eligible for the Backpacks for Kids program. The backpacks will be distributed Aug. 7, but parents are encouraged to call First Call at (785) 623-2800 by July 28.

Mills said the new backpacks are filled with a variety of age-appropriate supplies, such as notebooks, pencils, art supplies, facial tissues and school boxes. She said not having to pay for these items makes a significant difference in some families' budgets.

We would have to agree. It is a solid program that helps fill an identified need in the community. We thank all those involved with Backpacks for Kids for assisting as many children as they do.

But we also would ask any group, business or individual who might not have had a chance to contribute to the cause should contact First Call for Help at the aforementioned 623-2800. We would guess if more than 650 backpacks could be made available, they would be put to good use.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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