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For more than 20 years, Christ United Presbyterian Church members, along with support from other local churches, businesses and individuals, have held a free back-to-school giveaway to help families in the school district get the supplies and clothing their kids need to start the new school year.

The giveaway has grown from pens, pencils and paper, to backpacks, school bags, clothing and shoes, with upwards of 300 served by last year’s totals.

But, as everyone is aware, this year, things are different. Church members who organize the annual giveaway felt the traditional method of allowing families to file through the church basement to pick up what they need was not a safe way to go about the giveaway this year, due to concerns from the coronavirus pandemic.

Taking a cue from the school’s free summer meals program, a free backpack giveaway project was born. The Presbyterian Church, along with others and local supporters collected funds that were used to purchase supplies for students to start the school year. Wings Park Elementary was chosen for the site for this year’s giveaway, where parents/guardians can drive through the circular drive and they will be given backpacks that correspond with their students’ grades, K-high school.

The giveaway will be held Monday, Aug. 10, 2-6 p.m. or until all backpacks are given out, at Wings Park Elementary. Persons will receive the free backpacks full of supplies through their vehicle window. This year’s event will not feature clothing and shoes, only school supplies, however, something new has been added to the supply list. Each backpack will include a personalized face mask for the student.

School Counselor Barb Schmitz is taking care of this project with help of many volunteers and people who made donations. She said 275 backpacks were assembled Thursday in the Wings Park cafeteria. All families registered for school in Oelwein, that are in need of school supplies are welcome to the giveaway, which will continue until all backpacks are gone.

Anyone with questions is asked to call Schmitz at wings Park, 319-283-1982 or email her at bschmitz@oelwein.k12.ia.us.