(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) With a little over a month until students go back to school, a neighborhood non-profit is lending a helping hand to families on a tight budget with school supplies.
Tuesday, Grace House will hold its annual 'Back 2 School' event. It will be the 10th year the St. Joseph non-profit has held its school supply giveaway.
The event takes place at 2638 Lafayette St. and runs from 6 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Students will receive a backpack stocked full of supplies, a few outfits including underwear and socks, as well as hygiene items like a brand new toothbrush and toothpaste.
Last year, Grace House saw 300 less children at the popular event as the COVID-19 pandemic forced more kids to learn virtually.
“Last year even with the pandemic, they were around the block,” said Ruth Costello, Owner of Grace House, "We expect a big crowd this year.”
However, as more students are likely to return to in-person learning this semester, Costello said the need is greater than ever.
"This year, there weren't backpacks on sale. It was a mess after last year because everyone was virtual. Stores stocked them and put them away. This year i'm looking at $15 and up for backpacks like $39-$49. A parent with three children can't afford that," said Costello.
While many families continue to financially struggle, Costello has seen more members of the community step up. She said this year, Grace House has seen more donors than over the past 10 years give back.
All items at the local non-profit are donated by the community.
Grace House is expecting upwards of 1,200 families to line up Tuesday morning and encourages parents and their students to line up early.
The non-profit opened its doors Saturday for 70 working families who were going to miss opening day due to work. Costello said if working families need her to open the store early or stay open later, she will wait for them. Costello asks parents to call 816-262-9401 for hour requests.
Throughout the decade-long program, Grace House has kept the same motto: 'All for a smile.'
No money is necessary.
The free giveaway allows all kids an opportunity to walk into the classroom feeling confident and ready to learn.
“We want them all to look the same. We don’t want anyone to say, ‘Oh, that kid doesn’t have a backpack so he must be a total bad kid.’ No, we want to make them all happy and that first experience in the classroom to be super,” said Costello.
Grace House requests families wear a face mask while they shop.