Members from the Clarke Industrial Tech Advisory Board have joined forces with the United Methodist Church in Osceola to help students in Clarke County get off on the right foot this school year.

clarke county schools backpack program

For the last seventeen years, the United Methodist Church has been running a program for low-income children to equip them with school supplies to start the school year right. This year, members from the Clarke Industrial Technology Advisory Board, Miller Products Company, Altec and Salford, teamed up to help the program meet the growing needs in the community. By donating brand-new backpacks and school supplies, Miller and the others are helping to continue the generous tradition created by the big heart of Fern Underwood.

“Seventeen years ago, I got a call from Fern inviting me for tea and I knew she had a big idea,” said Diane Riley of the United Methodist Church. “She hated the idea that children were having to start the school year without necessary supplies and school clothes and was the driving force behind the program. We gave out 50 backpacks that first year and the program has steadily grown since then.”

Osceola’s United Methodist Church works with local businesses, individuals, and community support groups to gather school supplies and back-to-school clothes for students in the area. Every August, church members and other volunteers fill backpacks with supplies that low-income students and their families might have trouble purchasing on their own. In just the last school year, the group gave away roughly 280 backpacks to students who qualify for free or reduced lunches. They’re hoping to put together more than 350 backpacks this year.

“We love this community and are thrilled whenever we get a chance to give back,” said Kerry Richardson, Marketing and Sales Manager of Miller Products Company.

Besides this year’s student backpack program, the Clarke Schools’ Industrial Tech Advisory Board sponsored the annual welding competition and contributed to building the next generation of skilled trades workers.

“It’s incredible to see the hard work our manufacturers put back into our community,” said Bill Trickey, Executive Director of the Clarke County Development Corporation. “It really shows the commitment they have to Osceola and Clarke County’s future.”

This year’s backpacks and school clothes will be distributed on August 13 from 9am-6pm. Be on the lookout starting in the next few weeks for flyers and advertisements with more information.

“We have a lot of community support,” said Diane. “We live in a wonderful place where people are so generous and where if they know help is needed, they step forward. It’s a wonderful place to live.”

If you’d like to donate to the backpack program or volunteer, please contact Diane Riley by calling 641-342-4681, or the United Methodist Church at 641-342-2830.