Falls City students receive back-to-school boost

FALLS CITY -- Samantha Compa, 7, thinks her new school clothes and supplies are, to use her words: "Perfect!" and "Awesome!"Compa, along with three of her siblings, will soon be attending classes in Falls City schools, and thanks to a unique giveaway Thursday, will be completely set up for back to school.The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center's "Tools for Schools" program and Falls City Mayor Amy Houghtaling teamed up to fill 155 backpacks with supplies suited for each grade level, kindergarten through 12th. The backpacks -- enough to supply every student in the district -- were distributed Thursday in Falls City's Upper Park. The event featured a free dinner, clothing giveaway hosted by Mountain Gospel Fellowship Church's clothing closet, music, and games and crafts.This was the first time the Salvation Army branch serving Marion and Polk counties has hosted a giveaway in Polk County. With 94 percent of families in the district on the free or reduced-cost lunch program, Falls City seemed a natural place to start."They wanted to be more visible in Polk County and we have the need," said Houghtaling, who helped secure the giveaway location and estimate the number of students who would attend school in the district in 2013-14.Families in Falls City moved fast to pick up the supplies, with more than 120 backpacks claimed more than an hour before the end of the giveaway. Extras will be given to the district to hand out to students who missed Thursday's distribution.For some Falls City families, the assistance was critical to a successful start to the school year."I'm on cash assistance and I can't afford anything -- backpacks, school supplies, clothes or anything -- so this is extremely helpful," said Kathryn Cooper, Samantha's mother. "It's a blessing."Maj. Kelly Pontsler, Salvation Army's corps officer, said the organization will look to do more events similar to Thursday's and anticipates a return trip to Falls City next summer."Our intention is definitely to make this a repeat event," Pontsler said. "It's just a really nice thing ... It's really about the kids and the families and making sure the kids have what they need."Cooper said even if the supplies don't last the entire school year, they will allow the family to pay for other needs."It will get us started, something to build on, that way I can get stuff like the new shoes they need instead of having to spend it on a backpack and supplies," Cooper said.


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