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I'm kind of a nerd. I love school supplies. I can get lost in the never-ending aisles of sharpies, pretty notebooks, crayons, and pencils. I've always been this way. When I was a kid, a new notebook said so much more than me than just, "it's time to go back to school." A new, blank notebook was full of potential. The possibilities were endless. There were plenty of other challenges to deal with on the first day of school. But when I could face them with a new notebook and some new supplies, it made it just a little bit easier.  

There are many children here in Northwest Arkansas who don't have that option. In addition to all the normal anxieties that fill their minds on this big day, they have to worry about how they will explain to their teachers that they don't have the supplies they need. But Samaritan Community Center wants to make sure they don't have to. For the past 15 years, they have provided new backpacks filled with grade-appropriate school supplies for thousands of kids, grades K-12. 

Samaritan In-Kind Coordinator Shannon Green says, "As the community, we're asked to come together and help those who are less fortunate. Each year, we try to make the next year better." This year, they are hoping to distribute close to 3,500 backpacks. In order to meet this goal, Shannon says they still need help from the community.

"If you're interested in helping kids right here in Northwest Arkansas, we'll be collecting school supplies to help fill these backpacks. We need your donations to help make this the best school year possible." We will be hanging out with our friends from Samaritan Community Center all day collecting school supplies, Friday July 18th from 9am-6pm, at Chick-fil-A off of Pleasant Grove Road in Rogers. For a list of the items needed most, click here

Once the supplies have been collected and the backpacks filled, Samaritan Community Center prepares for Distribution Day. Shannon shares what the experience is like, "It's very emotional. It takes a lot of effort and time put into this, but it's well worth it on that day when you give that child that backpack, and they put it on and walk off with the biggest grin on their face." In addition to distributing backpacks, the community also comes together on this special day to provide free hair-cuts, free lunch and drinks, and other fun activities for the children and families who come. On their website they estimate, "more than 500 local churches, vendors, businesses and individual community volunteers come together each year to make BackPacks for Kids Day a success." 

This year distribution will take place Saturday, August 2 at the following locations: The Samaritan Community Centers in Rogers and Springdale, Gravette Church of Christ, and Round Mountain Community Church in Fayetteville. 

At the end of the day, Shannon says the goal is to make sure our neighbors, friends, and families are ready for their first day back to school.