MASS Spotlight: The Back to School Backpack Program

Oct 14, 2020

School looks different this year, but one thing is certain even in these most uncertain times: whether learning remotely or in the classroom, kids still need the proper supplies in order to succeed in school. That’s why, despite the ongoing pandemic, The Salvation Army’s Material Assistance and Seasonal Services (MASS) program made sure thousands of students across the Omaha metro were equipped with everything from notebooks and pencils to glue sticks and backpacks to start the school year off right.

The MASS program did all that via one very special annual event: The Salvation Army 7 Can Help Kids Back to School Drive. During the 2020 edition of this long-running community effort, nearly 11,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies were distributed. Here in town, backpack distribution occurred at four special drive-thru events held in August at the Kroc Center, North Corps, Westroads Mall and Council Bluffs Corps. (The Salvation Army’s MASS program oversees the collection, organization and distribution of the backpacks and school supplies.)

Demand amid the economic impact of COVID-19 was extremely high — so high, in fact, that volunteers at the Westroads distribution event gave away nearly 1,000 backpacks in about three hours’ time.  

Dozens of volunteers at the four locations helped make the drive a success. “It’s great to help the kids and be able to get them off to a good start at school. There’s just nothing better; it’s amazing,” said one volunteer at the Kroc Center distribution.

To launch this year’s successful Back to School Drive, The Salvation Army collaborated with longtime media partner KETV and received the backing of an array of generous sponsors — Methodist Health System, Metro Credit Union, Bucky’s Convenience Stores, Sweet 98.5, Firefighters on the Move, Pay-LESS Office Products, Barnhart Press, Westroads Mall and Two Men and a Truck.

This year marked the 22nd anniversary of the Back to School Drive, which over its two-decade-plus history has distributed well over 200,000 backpacks to families in need. 


The Salvation Army’s MASS program provides assistance when times are tough by offering food, clothing, household items, help paying for prescription medications, utility assistance and seasonal services. Our goal is to help those who are struggling stay afloat until financial stability can be achieved. For more information about MASS, visit our Burrows Center for Help and Hope website.

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