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Back 2 School Alliance giving more school supplies to students than ever before

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Back 2 School is preparing hundreds of backpacks and a variety of school supplies for kids across the Twin City area.

Summer break is in full force for K-12 students in Bloomington-Normal. But that doesn’t mean they won’t need school supplies in the very near future.

The Back 2 School Alliance is a volunteer group ready to help with that. The organization started humbly more than 20 years ago, packing 50 backpacks for District 87 students in the basement of a church. Now, Back 2 School is preparing hundreds of backpacks and a variety of school supplies for kids across the Twin City area.

Typically K-8 students are helped, but the need is there for high school students, too. Jan Meadows, a retired first grade teacher and an organizer with Back 2 School, said it’s harder to help them because of the wide variety of classes.

That’s changing this year.

Meadows said thanks to some grants, pre-K students will receive extra supplies this fall. And a large donation giving 100 backpacks to each high school that Back 2 School was planning on helping will make high school donations more plentiful.

Having the right supplies is especially important for high schoolers, said Meadows.

“If you ever want to think about a group that needs to feel accepted and part of the group, they need to have their stuff,” said Meadows. “And we’re happy to be able to help with that.”

She said the organization also has received help from Illinois State University. Back 2 School has been giving freshman orientation groups supplies to pack backpacks, and Meadows said their work means the group is receiving 100 backpacks per week because of the students' efforts.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, Back 2 School Alliance has kept operations smaller for safety. That’s the plan for this year, too.

“This year we’re still keeping it very small,” said Meadows. “We’re not moving it downstairs to a big distribution line, which is what we used to do.”

Still, more volunteers are needed for packing supplies. They can sign up to help pack at Midwest Food Bank — either online on the Back 2 School Alliance website or through SignUpGenius at the food bank. Distribution of supplies is Aug. 11 at the north parking deck on the south campus of State Farm.

For those who can't volunteer, donation boxes are out in the community. They are tall and black in color, with green signs on them. You can drop supplies into the box, or scan a QR code on the green signs to donate money through PayPal.

The supply boxes are at businesses across Bloomington-Normal -- some as big as State Farm, others smaller, like Grove Street Bakery.

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Jack Podlesnik is a student reporter and announcer at WGLT. He joined the station in 2021.
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