An annual back-to-school party for thousands of children in Bloomington-Normal won't happen this year.
At least not in the same way.
The Back 2 School Alliance organizes the distribution of school supplies for low-income families in Bloomington-Normal. This year it needs to shift its format and possibly collect more donations because of the pandemic.
Chairperson Jan Meadows said organizers are collecting backpacks for Unit 5 and District 87 to distribute this year, instead of at the annual party at Grossinger Motors Arena.
“I hate this model,” Meadows groaned. “We love our back-to-school party at Grossinger. We have typically 45 to 50 vendors who participate, who have all sorts of resources for low-income families."
Resources like low-cost internet and music lessons.
Meadows added the 3,000 backpacks they typically fill and distribute might not be enough this year because of increased need.
“We anticipate there being more need this year due to so many families that in the past have been able to manage school supplies who are unemployed due to the COVID-10 pandemic,” Meadows said.
She said the alliance still needs more donations to meet that need, noting two big supporters of the collection, State Farm and Country Financial, have had to shift their employee collections to cash drives online because so many are working from home.
“We would love to think it’s going to be more, we anticipate it’s going to be less,” Meaows conceded. “The visual of seeing all those supplies being brought into the building and being packed as a group and then sent to us is very community-building and has been very successful in the past.”
Collection boxes are set up at Hy-Vee in Bloomington and at several fitness centers in Bloomington-Normal.
District 87 schools will collect the supplies for its students and will have them at each school on the first day of classes. Unit 5 will hold a drive-up distribution at Normal Community West High School frm 1 t 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 14.
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