Thousands of children are going back to school in a few weeks, and the Salvation Army wants the neediest children to go back well supplied.
The local Salvation Army gave out exactly 100 backpacks last year to needy children going back to school and Darrell Pilgrim, director of the Salvation Army's Caring Place Ministries in Maple Ridge, said he expects the number to be higher this year.
"Every year so far, we've met the demand but it gets larger every year," Pilgrim said.
The Salvation Army has been seeing the demand for all their services go up but it's not just the homeless and destitute who are coming to them.
"We're seeing more and more working families... coming to us for help," Pilgrim said.
The Salvation Army has started a new campaign around dignity, and Pilgrim said part of that is allowing children going back to school have everything they need.
"If you don't have the basics to go to school, at some time, you'll stop going to school," Pilgrim said.
Many children are already dealing with poverty issues, so if they are going to school without proper supplies, that makes it so much harder, Pilgrim added.
The Salvation Army is partnering with Staples and Wok Box in Maple Ridge to fill the backpacks.
Donations can be made at the Staples location on 200th Street and Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge. They accept both new items to fill the backpacks and cash. Staples' target is to raise $4,000 for the program.
Staples is giving age-and genderappropriate supplies to students with the donations from customers, explained Kevin Younghusband, manager of Staples in Maple Ridge.
The new backpacks contain basic school supplies, pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, and so forth, and the ones for high-school students sometimes contain calculators and math sets.
"The Salvation Army is in an excellent position to help us identify the kids that need the help the most, and they will assist us with making sure the school supplies are given to the kids in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows that may not otherwise get them," Younghusband said.
Staples does similar charity work across Canada at their various stores, but each location partners with local organizations to benefit local children, Younghusband explained.
"We have found that there are always kids in need, and we want to help close that gap," Younghusband said.
Maple Ridge Wok Box at 20395 Lougheed Hwy. at Westgate Shopping Mall is promising to give a free kid's meal to anyone who donates $5 or more to the backpack program.
In addition, any donation of $5 or more made at Staples in Maple Ridge will net the donor a free kid's meal to Wok Box.
Cash and school supply donations can also be brought to the Salvation Army run Caring Place, which is at 22188 Lougheed Hwy. and is open around the clock.