By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

School supplies drive now underway

Rockne Roll/News-Register##Maria Mihm, left  and her mother, Celia Kaleta, place a donation bin for Beyond Backpacks at Cornerstone Coffee Roasters in McMinnville on Tuesday. Community members may donate school supplies or cash to the program, which expects to serve 900 children this year.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Maria Mihm, left and her mother, Celia Kaleta, place a donation bin for Beyond Backpacks at Cornerstone Coffee Roasters in McMinnville on Tuesday. Community members may donate school supplies or cash to the program, which expects to serve 900 children this year.

“We want kids to be able to start the school year like everybody else,” said Maria Mihm, who heads the non-profit.

The new name reflects the broad number of services the volunteer-driven organization provides, said Mihm, who has been volunteering with the effort for six years. 

In addition to school supplies and backpacks, recipients receive services from other helping agencies. “We want to connect families who need help all year,” she said.

Beyond Backpacks expects to help about 900 youngsters in kindergarten through 12th grade this year, about 150 more than last year.

While registration has closed, there’s still a waiting list of about 300. “We’ll serve as many as we can,” Mihm said.

Families that have registered will receive postcards notifying them of the distribution day in August.

On that day, children can “shop” for the backpack and supplies they want and pick out coats and hats. Mascots such as the Mac High Grizzly or McGruff the Crime Dog will be on hand, and there will be popcorn and games, as well.

“The incredible looks on the kids’ faces when they understand it’s for them, that makes it so worthwhile,” Mihm said.  

Beyond Backpacks started as Operation Backpack in 2004.

It has grown every year, an indication of both the need and the generosity of the community, Mihm said. “People, businesses and churches have been incredible with their support,” she said.

During the first few years, only elementary students were served. Now Beyond Backpacks helps kids of all ages.

The program has also expanded its reach to the entire county.

Beyond Backpacks partners with City Outreach, which provides hats and coats. It works with a variety of churches and organizations, such as Head Start, to find children in need of its services.

Mihm said the biggest need right now is for backpacks, especially colorful ones that will appeal to children. Backpacks with princesses, Transformers and other characters always go fast, she said.

Also needed are supplies required for classes, from crayons to scissors, notebooks and paper. Lists of supplies needed can be found at the nonprofit’s website, beyondbackpacks.org, and its Facebook page.

Mihm said volunteers use cash donations to buy additional supplies. They’re good shoppers, she said, and often are able to get better deals when they buy in bulk.

Checks may be mailed to Beyond Backpacks, P.O. Box 335, McMinnville, Oregon 97128. Backpacks and supplies may be dropped into collection barrels in local shops and public places.

Sites include:

n McMinnville -- Bi-Mart, Serendipity, OnPoint, Kraemer’s, Citizens Bank, Famous Footwear, Cornerstone Coffee, American Family Insurance, McMinnville Martial Arts, the aquatic center and the senior center.

n Dayton -- Block House Café.

n Newberg -- American Family Insurance.

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