By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Days before the start of a new school year, the Grace Baptist Church in Hudson wrapped up its annual school supply drive by donating more than 70 backpacks to local families in need.
The supply drive has been running continuously for two years, drawing on church members to donate school supplies over a three-week period in August. Lisa Helble, who has spearheaded the program, packs the supplies into backpacks and turns them over to the Hudson Public Schools to be handed out to families who are struggling financially.
This year, the church also donated supplies that could not be stuffed into backpacks to the schools themselves to be used in classrooms.
“The main reason we do it is because there is a need,” Helble said. “There’s a need for families that might need a little extra help. Back-to-school supplies are expensive and if you have three kids it just multiplies.”
This year’s supply drive received enough donations to fill 72 backpacks with pencils, markers, notebooks and other supplies. The backpacks were distributed to Hudson’s elementary and middle schools and eventually given to families.
“They may have a family situation where for whatever reason they don’t get the support at home, or can’t get the support that they need,” said George Luoto, a Hudson School Committee member and Grace Baptist attendee. “We wanted to get involved because it is important to get kids ready for school and school supplies can be a big cost.”
Helble started the program in 2012 during a vacation Bible school class at Grace Baptist. The Bible school traditionally involves some form of community service. In 2012, Helble and the students collected school supplies.
After that first year, however, Helble said the church drifted away from the school supply initiative. It took a conversation between Helble and Luoto to revive the program last summer.
“We talked to him and got a sense of the need,” Helble said. “Also, George is very well connected with the nurses and the schools so he sort of had that in with the school system.”
Helble said she hopes to continue the growth of the supply drive particularly with regard to the relationships it is building. She noted one instance this year that showed the effects of her program.
Midway through the supply drive, a family that had never attended Grace Baptist Church approached Helble wanting to donate supplies. Helble gave the family a list of the materials she needed and they promptly bought them to donate.
“I think next year, one of the things that I’m hoping to do is make people in the community aware of what we’re doing,” Helble said. “Cases like that show there are a lot of people who are willing to help.”