Back to school can be both an exciting and intimidating time for kids. It can also be an extremely stressful time for parents who are trying to provide back-to-school clothes and supplies while keeping the bills paid.
That stress can be greatly relieved for many parents thanks to a very special program through the local Salvation Army committee. A book bag give away is scheduled for Aug. 10 from 4-6 p.m. in the office of the Broken Bow Housing Authority. The program is a calling for the volunteers involved, and a God-send for the parents who benefit from it.
The committee receives the lists of needed school supplies from each teacher, then takes money from their account and purchases the items. As the kids come through they are given a back pack which is then filled with the items on the list for that child’s grade.
The program has been in place in Broken Bow for several years, and typically the committee gives away around 150 back packs each year. This year’s project is being chaired by Marilyn Moody.
The funds for the back pack project come from the Cliff Luther endowment and other donations. Any individual wishing to help with this project is welcome to do so, either with a financial contribution or a donation of school supplies or back packs. Any of those items can be dropped of at the Broken Bow Police Department or the Custer County Chief office.
Any extra items that are not used in these back packs will be distributed to schools across the county and given to children who may not have been able to make it to the back pack distribution.
Each family is also given a $25 voucher for clothing, which must be spent locally.
“That’s not going to get them much, but at least it will buy some socks and underwear,” says committee secretary Carol Allen.
In order to participate in the back pack distribution, each child must be accompanied by an adult and have their social security number with them.
This project is just one of many the Custer County Salvation Army Committee is involved in throughout the year. The endowment left by Cliff Luther in 2002, was expressly for the purpose of special needs for school children, elderly adults and those facing emergency situations. The committee takes that responsibility very seriously.
Project coordinator Cheryl Smith says one of the biggest services the committee offers is providing funds for vision, dental and prescription services for those in need. Individuals must be residents of Custer County to take advantage of the program, and the services must be rendered in Custer County as well.
The Salvation Army committee is heavily involved in the local food pantry, and vice-chair Nate Bell says this time of year is especially rough at the pantry.
“There is always a lot of giving from November to January, but this time of year it is really low,” Bell says.
The committee funds foot and blood pressure clinics for senior citizens, and swimming lessons for kids at community pools in the county. They also help sponsor Love & Logic classes for parents, provide assistance to Healing Hearts & Families for victims of domestic violence, and donate hams to the Christmas Children's Fund for distribution in the food boxes.
Meals for Recovering Seniors is a special program through the Custer County Salvation Army Committee which provides meals for senior citizens recovering from a recent surgery or illness.
Often when we think of the Salvation Army, we think bell ringers. They do that too. What many people may not realize however, is that 90 percent of the money raised by the bell ringing stays here in Custer County. Those funds are used to help support many of these programs.
“The Omaha office designates all funds except bell ringing,” says Bell. “We have complete control of that money.”
Another popular program sponsored by the Salvation Army committee is the Santa Cop program. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus help raise funds for Santa Cop each year by hosting a soup supper.
Smith says the committee is always looking for new members, and anyone is welcome to join. The Custer County Salvation Army Committee meets at the Broken Bow Housing Authority, with the next meeting set for Aug. 10 at 3 p.m.
“We don’t do a lot of things, but we do a lot with the things we do,” said Smith.