How to get free school supplies, backpacks

10:14 AM, Aug 12, 2010   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - As Tampa Bay gears up for the back-to-school season, Metropolitan Ministries is giving away backpacks and school supplies to 5,000 local kids as part of their Backpacks of Hope program.

Children must be registered to qualify for the program.

Registration is happening now and continues until August 20.  Registration is Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Metropolitan Ministries, which is located at 2010 North Florida Avenue in Tampa

Parents or guardians must bring a photo ID, social security cards for themselves and children, proof of residency (i.e. light bill or lease) and birth certificates for all children.

The backpacks will be given away at events on August 21 and 22.

The events will also feature free vision checks, community resource information and a book giveaway to promote literacy.

Last year, Metropolitan Ministries served 3,500 children through the Backpacks of Hope program.  This year, they expect to serve 5,000 through their outreach program in three counties.

"[On the first day of registration], we saw a lot of first-time families, many who were recently dual-income families, but were barely making it and are now down to one income," said Ana Maria Mendez, director of community relations for Metropolitan Ministries.

And it's no wonder Bay-area families need help.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average American family will spend $606.40 on back-to-school supplies this year.

Charity Johnigan, the mother of three children, knows the high cost of back-to-school season only too well.  In December, she turned to Metropolitan Ministries for help.  At that time, she was three months behind on rent.  Through counseling and a housing program offered by Metropolitan Ministries, she is now caught up on rent.

'I'm very thankful for the help I got here,' she said.

For more information on getting the free backpacks or to learn how to donate, contact Metropolitan Ministries.

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Janie Porter, 10 News

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