Drives to collect notebooks, scissors, glue sticks and other back-to-school essentials for thousands of local students began last week and will continue through early August.

“A lot of people just don’t realize how much is needed in the schools,” said Mike Tapia, executive director of Operation Back to School.

Many low-income families can’t afford school supplies, so several groups collect the items for them.

Tapia said he hopes to reach 6,000 students this year, double last year’s 3,000.

But, he said, “We can only do what our donors are willing to help us do.”

Operation Back to School is working with Fox21, iHeartRadio, Coca-Cola, Safeway and the Colorado Springs Fire Department.

People can donate new supplies at area Safeway stores, buy $10 prepackaged bags of supplies at the store or donate money. They also can drop supplies at all area fire stations through Aug. 9.

Schools have applications for parents to fill out to get supplies from Operation Back to School, which doles them out to any applicant through the schools.

Information from the applications is used to form a database of recipients, so they can be notified when supplies are ready.

Families also can call 719-597-1821 or email cuhq@hotmail.com to request an application.

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Another drive is being coordinated by Pikes Peak United Way and Crossfire Ministries. Helping them are Mercy’s Gate, COSILoveYou and local churches, which all conducted their own drives in the past.

Their donors can drop off new supplies at King Soopers stores, Discovery Church Colorado, Crossfire Ministries, Mercy’s Gate, Vanguard Church, Pikes Peak United Way, Rocky Mountain Calvary, FH Beerworks, the Westside Community Center and the Buckle store in Chapel Hills Mall.

Volunteers will sort all the supplies and distribute them at the first Backpack Bash at Discovery Church Colorado, 4304 Austin Bluffs Parkway, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 10.

That event also will provide students with free food and haircuts. Organizers were trying to get them dental screenings, too.

Discovery Church Colorado collected 1,000 supply-filled backpacks on its own last year.

Organizers of the combined drives hope to hand out 5,000 backpacks.

“We thought it would be a really neat community event to distribute backpacks together,” said United Way spokeswoman Annie Snead.

Colorado Springs School District 11 and Harrison School District 2 are providing school supplies for their students this year.

Colorado Springs D-11 is giving its K-8 students “basic school supply kits” for the second year, said D-11 spokeswoman Devra Ashby.

In that district, 60% of students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch. The supply kits don’t provide everything teachers need, so D-11 counts on other community organizations to provide those items.

“They provide a lot of supplemental supplies that our supply kits don’t cover,” she said. “And it’s great when we have community partners like that.”

Harrison D-2 will provide all needed supplies to students at its non-charter elementary and middle schools, said D-2 spokeswoman Christine O’Brien.

636-0210

@evanochsner

Evan is a 2019 intern at The Gazette. He is a Colorado Springs native who is currently a student at Northwestern University.

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