Each summer the local branch of the Salvation Army gives away free backpacks filled with school supplies for children for the upcoming school year.

Each summer the local branch of the Salvation Army gives away free backpacks filled with school supplies for children for the upcoming school year.

This year it is the desire of Salvation Army Shawnee Capts. Patrick and Stacey Connelly to see to it that all children in the tri-county area have an opportunity to receive a backpack.

“The number of backpacks given has been set for each county,” Stacey said, “and we will be going to both Seminole and Lincoln counties to distribute backpacks in those communities, as well.”

She said she and Patrick immediately noticed there were a number of agencies and churches in Pottawatomie County giving out backpacks.

“So, in an effort to avoid duplicating services in Pottawatomie County, we are limiting the number of backpacks this year and will be helping the underserved in the outlying counties,” Stacey said.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (or until all are given away) Thursday, July 25, at the The Salvation Army Administration Offices at 200 E. 9th in Shawnee, backpacks will be offered to residents in Pottawatomie County. Dates and times for distribution to Seminole and Lincoln Counties will be announced soon, Stacey said.

“We understand that for many parents it is difficult to make the drive into Shawnee during those hours that we have the backpack distribution — and for some they have no transportation at all,” Stacey said. “To our knowledge there are no organizations assisting with backpacks in (Lincoln and Seminole) counties like there are here in Pottawatomie. There is a definite need for the backpack program in those counties.”

To receive a backpack, there are certain documentation requirements.

“Parents or guardians must bring with them and provide their photo ID, proof of residency in Pottawatomie, Seminole or Lincoln County, proof of income of household as well as a birth record and shot record of each child,” she said.

The project provides school supplies and backpacks only, Stacey said. In years past, vouchers toward clothing at the Family Store have been included during distribution, but she said there is no need to, as vouchers already are given out regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the need is presented.

Also, The Salvation Army Corps will offer spiritual support for those who want it, along with free bibles provided by the Gideons.

“It is the mission of The Salvation Army to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination,” Patrick said. “We think meeting individuals' basic back-to-school needs are absolutely part of our mission.”

He said he and his staff love being able to see the smiles on kids’ faces and the relief on parents faces.

“To show people this is how our Savior loves,” Patrick said.

The Salvation Army thanks The Women’s Auxiliary for raising the funds that are used to purchase the backpacks and supplies used for this program. The funds raised are brought in through their annual Salad Luncheon. Last year the Women’s Auxiliary raised more than $5,000 to help with the back-to-school program.

“Without the selfless service of these precious women, the backpack program would not be a reality,” Stacey said; they are the army behind The Army.

The Connellys have been the new leadership of the Shawnee branch for nearly a month.

Former Capts. Russell and Jamie Clay moved to Virginia for their new post.

For more information, call 405-275-2243 or visit salvationarmyaok.org.

Watch for updates.