Alberta & Northern Territories Division

Calgary's backpack program for back-to-school

Calgary’s Long-Standing Backpack Program Offers a Twist This Year


With the end of summer break on the horizon, many families may be looking at budgets already stretched and wondering how they’ll be able to pay for school supplies for the upcoming year.

The Salvation Army has a long-standing backpack program that supplies kids from elementary school up to high school with much-needed school supplies. With the average cost of a filled backpack ranging from $30 in elementary up to $180 for students in high school, the program helps relieve much of the financial stress that parents face. Last year, The Salvation Army distributed 900 backpacks for students throughout Calgary with the number of registrants expected to increase.

This year, the team at The Salvation Army Barbara Mitchell Family Resource Centre decided to do something a bit different than handing out the standard backpack filled with supplies for the grade level specified. Instead, The Salvation Army collaborated with the Calgary Boys & Girls Club to host four ‘Back to School Shopping’ events around the city for pre-registered families. Each family who accessed the program booked a shopping time at a location near to them. Once there, the family was paired with a volunteer who helped them shop for everything needed on their school supply lists for the upcoming year.

Nybol has six children, five of whom received backpacks this year. The children excitedly sorted through the different colours and designs on the backpacks before picking the one they wanted. They unzipped them and took off with their assigned volunteers to fill them up. Soon they were proudly showing Nybol their new school supplies.

“This program helps you feel free,” says Nybol with a smile. “Before they would just get a filled bag but now my kids get to pick what they like.”

“We’d see parents who would pick everything out and the kids would get upset because it wasn’t what they wanted in terms of colours or designs,” says Jane Ellen Forbes, Community Ministry Manager for The Salvation Army. “This year, we saw so many smiling faces from both kids and parents. The kids were excited for the chance to pick everything out and you could see how excited they are to start school.”

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