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Backpack giveaway helps local students

Under a tent the Friends of Ironton had lent them, volunteers from five churches gathered for a moment of prayer before their morning duties were to begin.

Leading them was the Rev. David Ritchie, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran, the church that instituted the event that brought out lines of people stretching for three blocks Saturday morning.

“Thank you, God, for the love you pour upon us,” Ritchie said. “That love we try to give out today to give them a little bit of hope. They are all your children.”

As the group joined in the amen, Ritchie clapped his hands and said, “Now let’s go to work.”

With that the ninth Tools 4 School giveaway began. This year 2,100 backpacks for ages kindergarten through 12th grade were distributed in about two hours from the tailgates of pickup trucks at one of end of Center Street.

Pre-school supplies were also passed out. Joining members of St. Paul were parishioners from First Presbyterian, Christ Episcopal Church and First United Methodist in Ironton.

Coming down for the day from Worthington were members of All Saints Lutheran Church, who supplied 1,000 backpacks and 120 packets for pre-schoolers.

“It’s amazing,” Muriel Erickson of All Saints, said as she waited by the trucks for second through fifth graders. “It’s fun when the kids can choose and some are so surprised that they get to choose. They are used to not being able to.”

Over by the table where the homemade cookies were was Dee Rath of St. Paul, waiting for the students to make their selection, then grab a sweet treat before heading out.

“It is great for everybody to work together and help people in our community and get to work with other churches,” she said.

For the morning Center Street was turned into a street fair with inflatables, informational booths and a man who could coax balloons into pastel dachshunds.

The idea for the school supply giveaway grew out of the church’s annual Christmas basket distribution. During one holiday distribution there was a container of school supplies.

“That was what went first,” Ritchie said. “People thought, there must be a need. We are the fulfillment of doing the Lord’s work. So many people cannot afford this. And this gives the kids ownership because they select their backpack. To see their faces, this is the best job there is.”

It is a need Bobbie Fetty of Ironton said she is grateful is met as she stood in line with her three children, ages 3 to 7, for hot dogs, prepared by First United Methodist. By day’s end, the women at the church would hand out 800 hot dogs along with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“This means a whole lot,” she said.