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Salvation army gives to kids

Anne Retezan and Sara Nelson stand amongst about $4,000 worth of school supplies that will be donated to area elementary schools.1 / 2
SARA NELSON AND ANNE RETEZAN help gather about $4,000 worth of school supplies in a storage space at Mahube. The supplies are bought by the Salvation Army with Red Kettle funds and are distributed to area schools to be given to children who may not be able to afford the supplies otherwise.2 / 2

More than 100 students in Becker County schools are going to have the school supplies they maybe didn't think they could afford this year.

"With the tough economic times, back-to-school expenses can be another expenditure that strains a family's already tight budget," Marcia Otte said.

Otte serves as the Becker County Salvation Army secretary and as family development director at Mahube Community Council, the entity that organizes the project with funds from the Salvation Army.

Money raised through the Red Kettle Campaign is used to purchase the notebooks, markers, backpacks and other school supplies needed.

Mahube employees grab a cart at Kmart and loaded it up with supplies area teachers have listed that students will need. A small amount of clothing is also given out.

Besides the Salvation Army, St. Mary's Innovis Health and Oak Crossing employees are also donating supplies for the program.

In the past, Mahube would hand out supplies to families in need, but now the supplies are kept at the schools and teachers hand them out as they see fit.

"The Becker County Salvation Army gives the supplies to the schools to hand out -- because who knows better than the teachers which children are in need?" Otte said.

"We're filling a different niche," she added of giving directly to the schools throughout Becker County rather than to individual families.

Otte said they spend an average of $3,000 a year on school supplies, which figures out to about $45,000 spent in the last 15 years since the Salvation Army has been involved. And, as a self-proclaimed coupon-clipper, Otte said she saved nearly $580 this year by shopping the sales.

In her 2-inch thick report she must file with the state on where the money goes, Otte estimates the supplies served about 110 people in Becker County. The supplies are distributed to all the elementary schools in Becker County and the middle school in Detroit Lakes.

On Tuesday, Mahube workers will sort the supplies and deliver them to the schools, just in time for school to begin.

Last year, Salvation Army kettles were placed at Central Market, Washington Square Mall, Kmart, L&M Fleet and Walmart for a month before Christmas. Volunteers throughout the community man the kettles and take turns ringing the familiar bell.

"The amount of money raised is really dependent on having ringers at the kettles," Otte said. "If we don't have someone at that kettle, we don't get money."

The funds raised in Becker County, stay in Becker County, and the Back-to-School Project is just one example of that.