Operation: Backpack to School

Old Town Mission, Verde Community Church to give backpacks to area’s K-12 students

At the Old Town Mission, volunteers spent Tuesday morning filling backpacks with pencils, paper, folders, binders, composition books, rulers, scissors and crayons. Old Town Mission Executive Director Kellie Wilson says that more than 1,200 backpacks will be given out from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday at the Verde Community Church. VVN/Bill Helm

At the Old Town Mission, volunteers spent Tuesday morning filling backpacks with pencils, paper, folders, binders, composition books, rulers, scissors and crayons. Old Town Mission Executive Director Kellie Wilson says that more than 1,200 backpacks will be given out from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday at the Verde Community Church. VVN/Bill Helm

COTTONWOOD – Helping others is so important to Teresa Jaycox, she travels all the way from Rimrock each week to volunteer at the Old Town Mission in Cottonwood.

Her child is only three months old, she says. But in a few short years, he’ll be attending school.

And he’ll need school supplies, such as a backpack, pencils and pens, paper and a glue stick.

So she volunteers, as do several other community advocates, by filling backpacks with all the goodies your average student needs. Tuesday in Cottonwood, the Mission prepared for Saturday’s annual Operation: Back to School, which is scheduled from 9 a.m. until noon on July 28 at the Verde Community Church.

Maybe they should call it Operation: We take care of all the Verde Valley’s kids. Because the roughly 1,200 backpacks and all the supplies they can hold are available for any child, any grade, who attends any school in the Verde Valley.

It’s been many years since the Old Town Mission began giving out backpacks to the Verde’s children, Old Town Mission Executive Director Kellie Wilson says.

In fact, Wilson says that all of the Mission’s services, programs and events exist “to benefit anyone who is in need throughout all of the communities within the Verde Valley.”

“Every year we see the need increases,” Wilson says.

Last year, Old Town Mission distributed 1,000 fully loaded backpacks. Backpacks, Wilson says, that are “loaded with school supplies,” such as pencils, paper, folders, binders, composition books, rulers, scissors, crayons, erasers … “all the essential supplies, plus a few extras.”

Partnerships that strengthen Operation: Back to School

According to Old Town Mission General Manager Jill Sweet, Old Town Mission decided four years ago to host the event off property and partner with other local organizations and non-profits.

“We are blessed to have the support of many businesses and organizations, other nonprofits, churches, individual groups and volunteers,” Sweet says.

Verde Community Church is partnering with Old Town Mission to give the brand new backpacks filled with “necessary school supplies to families in need with children grades K thru 12th grade,” says Carl Lodico, Family Life pastor at Verde Community Church.

This year, the partnership is also collecting necessary supplies for teachers.

Come for the much-needed school supplies, but stay for the fun, as children and their families will be able to interact with various game booths with prizes, a bounce house, the Good News Expo, and enjoy hotdogs, popcorn and snow cones.

Local first responders will also bring and host their vehicles for kids to explore.

Back to School is a “huge annual event which requires many volunteers,” Wilson says.

Volunteers come from the mission, churches, groups and various community members, she says.

Old Town Mission and Verde Community Church will give out the backpacks at the school’s gym, park, and amphitheater. Verde Community Church is located at 102 S. Willard St. in Cottonwood.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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