ENID, Okla. — Walmart and The Salvation Army are teaming up Saturday to collect school supplies for children in need.

Victor Estudiante, Corps Assistant with The Salvation Army of Enid, said each year Walmart selects one organization nationwide to benefit from the annual “Stuff the Bus” school supply drive. This year, more than 3,000 Walmart stores nationwide are partnering with The Salvation Army to collect school supplies for children of low-income families.

“We are so humbled and blessed by their choice of The Salvation Army this year,” Estudiante said.

School supply donations will be accepted at the Walmart Supercenter location at 5505 W. Garriott, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, to benefit school kids in need in Garfield, Grant and Major counties.

Estudiante said the event will take place nationwide on Saturday, but the timing in Enid is fortunate, as it falls during the state’s tax-free weekend. And, he said, it’s just in time for some area schools, such as Pond Creek-Hunter, which return to class next week.

The white Salvation Army’s youth activity bus will be in the Walmart parking lot to collect donated school supplies Saturday. Collection bins also will be placed in the store, and Salvation Army volunteers will be at each of the store’s entrances to assist with donations.

Bell-ringers and the iconic Red Kettles also will be out Saturday, to collect cash donations for the school supply drive and The Salvation Army’s shoe fund for kids in need.

Volunteers will be sorting donations and filling backpacks during the event Saturday, and The Salvation Army will start distributing backpacks filled with school supplies to kids in need beginning Monday, at The Salvation Army of Enid, 516 N. Independence.

Estudiante said supplies will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last. To be eligible, a parent or guardian must present proof of residence in Garfield, Grant or Major counties and proof of enrollment in school for each child to receive a backpack.

“Stuff the Bus” will enable The Salvation Army of Enid to expand on its annual school supply drive, Estudiante said, which usually provides 100 backpacks to area kids in need.

“Each year we would run out pretty quickly, just within our social service office and the programs we run, like the shelter,” Estudiante said, “and we’re hoping to really build on that this year with ‘Stuff the Bus.’”

Estudiante said the school supply drive is a small way for The Salvation Army to tackle generational cycles of poverty in the community.

“What it comes down to for us, is the majority of the people we serve are adults who are homeless or in need,” Estudiante said, “but the one thing we can always trace back is financial insecurity — it can be traced back for all of them to when they were kids.”

Estudiante said Census data puts more than one in five Oklahoma children at or below the poverty line, and in Enid the percentage is even greater.

Almost one in three of those kids won’t graduate from high school, Estudiante said, and 7% will become homeless.

Back-to-school time can be especially hard on low-income families, Estudiante said, as school supplies, shoes and clothes strain already tight budgets.

“Those children who are living in homes where there’s just not enough to get by, their parents have to choose between giving them the supplies they need, or what bill they’re not going to pay, or choosing to send them to school inadequately prepared,” Estudiante said. “It’s a hard choice no parent should have to make, and we want to step in and help where we can.”

The Salvation Army of Enid office at 516 N. Independence is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointment is needed to request assistance with school supplies. For more information, call (580) 237-1910.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com.
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I am a retired Naval Officer and small business owner, outside of my work at the News & Eagle. My wife Tammy and I enjoy serving together at church and attending Gaslight and ESO. We have two daughters, three dogs and little free time.