Backpack, clothing effort will assist area students

With school starting Aug. 8 in Tonopah, community members are offering a “helping hand” to make sure children in need have backpacks full of supplies in addition to new clothing.

Volunteers with the Salvation Army and the Community Youth Advisory Council in Tonopah are busy, making sure all students have what they need. That includes filling more than 100 backpacks with school supplies and getting new clothing ready for 20 students in need.

“The backpacks are all filled with grade-appropriate items such as binders, colored pencils, crayons,” said Shambra Jones, Salvation Army coordinator in Tonopah. “There’s journals for the high school, pens, chalk for the teacher, erasers,” she said. “It’s everything that’s needed on their (students’) school supply list.”

Most of the items were obtained by the Salvation Army at a discounted rate from Scolari’s Food & Drug Co.

“The rest was funded by the kettle drive that we do over Christmas, the bell ringers (for) the kettles,” Jones said.

New initiative

Debuting this year is an effort to provide back-to-school clothing to 20 youths.

“One of the concerns was kids (having) too small of clothes, too big of clothes, dirty, wearing sweats all the time, maybe wearing shorts during the winter,” Jones said. “So we purchased pants, shirts, really nice shoes,” she said. “We set it at 20 (youths) to see what the need was. We know it is a small need, but we want to see how big it is.”

The clothes, ordered through the J.C. Penney Co., are funded through the kettle drive.

Unlike the backpacks, income is one of the factors for youths receiving clothing.

“It’s on income and their accessibility to drive someplace,” Jones said. “With these, either their family doesn’t have a vehicle, or it’s a vehicle that’s only like a town vehicle. It’s not going to make it to Bishop to be able to buy clothes.”

“This one I am excited about because it’s new,” Jones said of the clothing initiative. “A lot of people say ‘All these kids, they don’t have this. They don’t have this.’ So it’s a new program for our community to see if we can help the issue down the road. We’ll see how it goes.”

Like ‘Christmas morning’

Pastor Michael Farris of First Baptist Church of Tonopah was among community volunteers helping get all the back-to-school items ready for distribution.

“Our kids need stuff, and this is one way to put it in their hands so that all kids go in equal on the first day of school,” he said. “Some kids need a hand up. This way, they can go in feeling like they are equal going into school, and they’re not being left out.”

Farris recalls the 2015 back-to-school effort, when 86 backpacks were distributed.

“What was interesting last year was when the kids actually came to get their backpacks, some of those kids’ eyes were like their eyes on Christmas morning,” he said. “Just big, excited. You couldn’t believe it. When you see that, it makes you want to give and help…”

Tonopah and beyond

This year, most of the students receiving the back-to-school items live in Tonopah, but some are from other areas such as Goldfield and Silver Peak.

Distribution was set to begin Aug. 3 at the Salvation Army office in Tonopah, 224 S. Main St. Parents are asked to sign up children in advance so that the backpacks can be filled with items for the correct grade level. The backpacks are distributed on an anonymous basis to protect the identities of the children.

In letting people know about the backpacks, the Salvation Army describes the effort as “a helping hand to the community.”

“Every year it seems to kind of be growing,” Jones said in describing the need. “Our hope is to be able to provide the backpacks so that families can help with other things.”

“Maybe winter coats,” she said. “Maybe they only have so much money to provide so if we help with the school supplies, maybe they’d be able to help with clothing or shoes or be able to help in the household, feeding of lunch. Things like that.”

Unlike the clothing effort, family income is not a factor to receive a backpack.

“It’s more on just we understand that if there’s expenses that are going out along with income that’s coming in, we understand that. So we go on just a need and not by a dollar amount. Not how much you make to see if you qualify.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to get the supplies here in Tonopah so if it’s a need, if it’s something that’s going to help a family out, that’s what we’re here for,” Jones said.

Her daughter, Tonopah High School freshman Shelby Jones, was among the Community Youth Advisory Council volunteers getting the supplies ready on Aug. 1.

Asked what stands out about the effort, she said, “How many kids need this, and they don’t get it on a day-to-day basis. So it’s really cool that we can provide that for them,” she added.

Contact reporter David Jacobs at