Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Salvation Army, Harristown team to “fill a backpack” for Harrisburg schoolchildren

The Salvation Army Harrisburg has set up a donation table in Strawberry Square.

Many students look forward to the start of a new school year, but buying supplies can place an extra burden on Harrisburg families already facing financial stress.

That’s why the Salvation Army Harrisburg, along with Harristown Enterprises, is reviving its “Christmas in July” fill-a-backpack initiative.

During lunchtime this week, the charity will be in Strawberry Square to collect donations of money and new school supplies.

Backpacks donated by Harristown and others then will be filled with the supplies before they are distributed to local children in need in early August.

“We’re hoping for great things again this year,” said Cindy Minnich, the special events and communications coordinator of the Salvation Army Harrisburg.

Through the initiative, which is in its eighth year, families in need can apply to receive backpacks for children in elementary school through high school. This year, the Salvation Army hopes to fill at least 120 to 150 backpacks.

Harristown is donating 50 of the backpacks.

“Harristown and Strawberry Square are delighted to support the Christmas in July event with the Salvation Army this week in the atrium,” said Harristown CEO Brad Jones.

Minnich said that it costs about $40 to fill a backpack.

“People don’t realize that when they go shopping, but based on the list that the Harrisburg School District has given us, it costs that much,” she said.

Last year, about 150 children received backpacks full of supplies. However, the Salvation Army would like to serve even more students in need.

“When our application appointments [to receive backpacks] go live, they fill up in about three hours, and we have waiting lists,” Minnich said.

The Salvation Army asks for the following supplies:

  • 1-subject spiral notebooks
  • Pencil sharpeners (small)
  • Wooden pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Pencil pouches (3-hole-punch)
  • Erasers (one pack of pencil toppers or two regular)
  • Boxes of crayons, colored pencils and markers
  • 12-inch rulers
  • Glue sticks
  • 2-pocket POLY folders
  • Packs of wide-ruled notebook paper
  • Binders (1.5 to 2 inch)
  • Post-it-notes
  • Wide-ruled index cards
  • Dry erase markers (black and blue)

“We’re not quite meeting the need that’s out there, but we hope to get closer and closer each year,” Minnich said.

The Salvation Army will be in the Strawberry Square atrium from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Friday, July 19. Donations in cash, check and charge are accepted, as well as donations of new supplies. Donations can also be dropped off at 1122 Green St., Harrisburg. To donate supplies, visit or the donations page at

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