As the summer begins to wind down, the Salvation Army gears up for its annual Back to School Drive to be held Monday, Aug. 5.
From 9 a.m. to noon, local parents are invited to come to the gymnasium at Monroe High School, 126 S. Sydner Ave., and pick out much-needed clothing, backpacks and other school supplies to get their youngster ready for school on a first-come, first-served basis.
According to Johanna Valencia, Salvation Army Youth Center coordinator, the Salvation Army traditionally serves approximately 300 families each year by assisting them in taking the sting out of back-to-school expenses.
Gently used and new clothing for school-aged children, ages preschool through high school seniors, will be available for selection. In addition, the children will have the opportunity to receive a free haircut, courtesy of local barbers.
"We have many volunteers who will be sorting through the clothing to make sure that it is decent quality, as well as new quality," said Valencia. "We always welcome volunteers to donate their time, and in particular, are in need of clothing for teenagers."
According to Valencia, a local dentist has also provided dental supplies for the children.
This is a free service offered to the community, and made possible by the generous donations. No applications are required to receive assistance.
Said Valencia, "There is a huge financial strain that's currently happening to all our local families. Our demographics for all our programs have shifted to working families so now we have a lot of working families that are in need.
"For back to school, we at the Salvation Army, feel that it is very important to provide an event for our children so that they can start off a new year focused more on their academics than on basic supplies and needs. It's very important that these kids get all the services and all the needs addressed prior to the beginning of the school year."
During last year's drive, Jessa Turner, a single mother of three young boys, said she could not have sent her children to school with everything that is required if it wasn't for the assistance of the Salvation Army.
"I was able to walk in and pick out clothing for my own children," Turner said. "I wasn't expecting for them to get haircuts and backpacks, too. I was so grateful to have this service available, and I know my boys were happy, too."
The Salvation Army will continue to accept monetary donations, as well as donations of backpacks, clothing and other school supplies such as pens, pencils, crayons, paper and notebooks. New packages of socks and underwear in all sizes are also in need, as are shoe donations.
The Salvation Army is located at 538 E. Tehachapi Blvd. For more information on its many services offered, call 823-9508. Location hours can also be found at salvationarmyusa.org.