On Saturday morning, hundreds lined up outside the Mountain View Event Center in Pocatello waiting for their chance to resupply for the upcoming school year.
“People showed up last night at 10:27 P.M. to get in line,” event director Joshua Robinson said. “So it tells you that for some people, there’s a real need.”
The backpack giveaway, now in its 13th year, doesn’t just give kids a loaded backpack.
“They get to pick their backpack, then we ask what grade they’re in. They get the grade list that the school district has put out for that grade and then they get to go shopping and pick out the supplies themselves,” Robinson explained.
When the event was first held, they gave away about 100 backpacks. This year, they anticipate giving away more than 2,000.
“So families that are in need can get a huge break just by being a part of this event,” he said.
But it’s not just school supplies that kids and their parents have access to.
“Clothing, doctors, dentists, counseling agencies. There’s about 20 different agencies that are over there, offering free help and discounts on stuff,” Robinson said. “And then there’s a huge fair at the end … we actually wanted to create an environment where kids could celebrate going back to school.”
Robinson said he’s partnered with nearly 60 business, eight agencies and more than a dozen local churches to put this event together.
He’s watched the event expand to more than 20 times its original size and said that’s a sign.
“I think that just shows that, yeah, there’s times when its harder for our community and the beauty is that there’s people who are willing to come in and say we’ll help out. And there’s been some great success stories where people came and they were here for a few years and then they came back and said ‘we’re doing well now, we want to be a sponsor, we want to help.'”
The event’s goal is the same today as it was 13 years ago; showing love to the community. Something Robinson said is illustrated by the group effort it takes to put the event together.
“There’s no one business that runs this event and that’s very unique to be able to say none of us are going to take 100 percent of the credit,” he said, “we’re all just going to chip in and help.”