National Backpack Day in Muncie IN just in time for school

Hearts and Hands United locally helps thousands.

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE INDIANA  (NEWS) - Nick and Robin Collins were grateful Saturday for the community support to the national Backpack Day effort carried out by Hearts and Hands United.

Nick works for At&T and Robin stays at home caring for the couple's four children, Mathew, Mason, Michael and Madison, who are headed back to school Monday in Yorktown.

For the Collins' the backpacks filled with school supplies and the extra bonus of free shoes means more than $200 in savings next week.

"This is the first time we have been here," said Collins, about the first-come, first serve events

Hundreds waited in line circling around Heartland Hall at the Delaware County Fairgrounds Saturday morning to register for the program in in eighth year locally.

Community leaders including bankers, business people and politicians created a local group that raises money and means to help those in need.

And those sponsors include retail giants like Walmart and Meijer participate along with banks like First Merchants and employers including the old Sallie Mae call center.

On the front line Saturday was Mayor Dennis Tyler and his wife, Vickie, along with Center Township Trustee Marilyn Kay Walker who was overseeing the event.

Tyler was handing out backpacks, saying it was a great program helping families in need.

With Muncie schools having more than 70 percent of their students on free and reduced lunches, the need is great. Federal census demographics show that one in five children live in poverty locally.

Walker estimated more than 2,000 families served by the program on Saturday with millions more nationwide.

Many families struggle with the increase cost of education and extra activities as public schools have limited public funds and some urban schools have declined because of charter schools, vouchers and homes schooling.

Muncie schools lost more than 150 students and public funding for them last year when a charter school opened in the Industry neighborhood. And more students left when the school system closed Southside High School.

Walker credited the program's origin to Denise Thornburgh who helped organize it almost a decade ago. The national program helps in hundreds of communities with millions of dollars from business and charity.


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