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story.lead_photo.caption SERVE, Inc. will have backpacks and school supplies available for students. Families must register by July 31. Photo by Olivia Garrett / Fulton Sun.

The yearly trip to the store to fill backpacks ahead of the first day of school is something parents everywhere are familiar with.

But in Callaway County, families in need have been able to avoid the hit to the pocketbook thanks to the efforts of SERVE, Inc.

Usually, families pick up supplies and a free backpack at an event at Callaway Christian Church that also features haircuts and health screenings. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fair can't happen this year, but SERVE is still working to make sure local students have what they need for the upcoming school year.

Instead, families must register by July 31 to receive supplies, which will be distributed by schools at open house events. Home school and private school students can pick up supplies at SERVE after Aug. 13.

"That's really the last possible moment that we can get supplies in," business manager Marilyn Bartley said.

The goal is to help serve low-income families, but there are no income restrictions. A students must be a Callaway County resident and attending a local school for grades K-12. This includes Jefferson City School District students who reside in Callaway County.

Each backpack contains age-appropriate school supplies, only a portion of what a student might be expected to bring based on their school's supply list.

"It can be everything from watercolors for kindergartners all the way to college-ruled loose leaf paper for high school students," Shelby Weathers, of SERVE, said.

SERVE has been distributing school supplies for 10 years. Last year, about 650 backpacks were distributed. So far this year, only 185 have registered.

"There's no cutoff," Weathers said. "If 800 people register, we'll supply 800 with school supplies."

SERVE is accepting donations of funds and supplies. Barrels for school supply donations are set up in local stores.

To register visit serveinc.net/backtoschool/.

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