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School-supplies giveaway continues today at the Urban Mission

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A child’s smile as he or she picks out a backpack and wears it out the doors of the Watertown Urban Mission makes all of the collection, planning and sorting for the school-supplies giveaway worth it, according to Critical Needs coordinator Joanna J. Fassett.

Within the first hour of the annual giveaway Wednesday, about 300 backpacks stuffed with a starter pack of school supplies were given out to children. Ms. Fassett said many people, churches and businesses donated enough supplies for the mission to fill more than 1,100 backpacks.

“We’re the medium for the community’s generosity,” she said. “This shows a real love in the community for those in need.”

More than 600 were given out by the end of the day.

Pens, pencils, pencil boxes, rulers, scissors, paper, index cards, rulers, pocket folders, binders and more, were collected through Wednesday for the event. Urban Mission staff and volunteers spent many hours stuffing each backpack in preparation for the giveaway, Ms. Fassett said.

Everyone’s efforts were worth it for Watertown resident Kellie Schirmer, who brought three of her children into the mission Wednesday for another agency service.

“We were just out front and the girls saw (children) come out with book bags,” she said.

Her children, Miranda, 8, Malainey, 5, and Tyson, 5, who all will attend Brownville-Glen Park Elementary School, Brownville, said they liked getting to “shop” for their own backpacks. The girls even got matching bags, with colorful peace signs.

Mrs. Schirmer said the giveaway helped her a lot, because her children’s school supply lists include more than a dozen glue sticks each, and other multiples of items.

Melanie Hulsizer, Henderson, picked up bags for her three Belleville Henderson Central School District children.

“It’s going to help out a lot,” she said. “Last year was about $100 for everyone’s supplies.”

Last year, more than 1,200 backpacks were given out. Watertown Urban Mission Development Director Andrew G. Mangione said the agency expects to hand out about the same number this year.

“People came through in a tremendous way to ensure we’re ready to meet this year’s need,” he said.

While the bulk of supplies come in the summer, Ms. Fassett said, the agency collects supplies year round, and donations are accepted any time. The agency is prepared to give out a starter pack of supplies and a backpack to families in need even after school starts, through its Critical Needs program.

Working parents or guardians who could not attend Wednesday’s giveaway, or its continuation from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today in the community room of the mission, 247 Factory St., can make other arrangements through the agency.

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