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KINGSBURG – If you’re looking to stretch your back-to-school shopping budget, you may want to take a trip to London. Not London, England, but the rural community that’s about nine miles southeast of Kingsburg.

Kingsburg Community Assistance Programs and Services Director Aida Rushing said their nonprofit hosted three days of special sales so parents and children in the rural communities could feel as prepared as possible for the beginning of school.

The first was at their Kingsburg location, with a second at Traver and the final sale today from 5-7:30 p.m., July 31, at the London’s LCAPS, 37835 Kate Rd. The event includes hot dogs, drinks and snow cones.

Rushing said then manager Linda Wells started the special sales about 13 years ago. Having grown up in Traver herself, Rushing said she realizes it’s difficult for rural families to travel to larger cities to shop for clothes.

“But we still want the kids to feel empowered, ready and prepared. That’s why it’s important to us to have the supplies the kids actually need in the backpacks.”

KCAPS has been preparing for the special sale for months now by setting aside donated clothing specifically for school-aged children. They have also been giving out backpacks filled with school supplies through free raffles held during the sales.

For the Kingsburg location, the local police and fire departments partnered with KCAPS for the second year to provide backpacks filled with supplies.

Kingsburg Firefighter/Paramedic Joey Frankmore said it was “awesome” to hand out 30 backpacks and see the children having fun. Typically, they see residents during the stress-filled circumstances so having this setting to interact was uplifting.

“More often than not, we see kids when they’re not so happy like when their family member’s going to the hospital, fires, or whatever the case may be. Being able to see them and interact on a positive note is definitely good for us, too. Today’s awesome.”

Kingsburg Police Officers Association President and Field Training Officer Derek Gagnon also described the atmosphere as awesome.

“People have tight budgets, so it’s fun to see their faces, interact with the kids and just give back to the communities. They’re trying to get ready for school and we’re giving them some basic necessities. It’s also been a good team effort working with the fire department,” Gagnon said. “Just hanging out with the kids and saying ‘hi’ means more to us than anything else. Then they know they can come to us, say hi and we’re approachable. We want them to feel comfortable with us. That’s what we’re here for.”

Gagnon said an anonymous donor supplied the visit from Chilly Willys where shoppers could enjoy an ice cream for free and the local Wal-greens helped with them with school supplies.

Rushing said they work with the local school district to ensure the supplies filling the backpacks are actually what students need to be ready for school.

“You see the kids really excited and they’re so happy. This is new clothes for them. I had several families say they really appreciate it and they come year after year. So I’m glad we do this.”

Rushing said she reaches out for community support through the KCAPS newsletter and social media and residents and other local nonprofits step up to donate.

“The Kiwanis here in town brought in brand-new clothes,” she said of one group. “We have had people just bless us now that we’re doing the Backpacks of Hope. Even kids did lemonade stands and brought their money. Local businesses brought pencil pouches filled. We use that list and make sure kids get what they need.”

Community members also volunteer to prepare just for these sales, Rushing said. Among them were Heather Bennett and Jennifer Cunningham and their daughters, helping during the Kingsburg sale.

“We prepare for this for months,” Bennett said of them pulling children’s and junior-sized clothing so elementary through high school students have the best of the donated items to choose from.

“It’s very expensive for families to get ready for school. I think by saving the really nice items, kids feel confident going back to school.”

Even though donations for this sale we already out on the floor, KCAPS accepts clothing donations of gently used items throughout the year.

“We always take donations,” Cunningham said. She works more in the food bank side of the agency and said the need there exists all year long as well.

Outside the KCAPS building, sisters Kaitlin, 6, and Janelle Treadwell, 7, were among shoppers that day. They’d finished shopping and were enjoy the free hot dogs and drinks offered during the event.

“I bought a unicorn shirt and dresses,” Kaitlyn said. She’s heading into first grade at Roosevelt and said she’s looking forward to meeting her new teacher.

Janelle even found clothes for winter time.

“I found really cool jackets.” She’ll be a second grader at Lincoln and also looks forward to meeting her new teacher and classmates. Her advice to all the students was “to be kind and friendly to everybody.”

That advice is being applied throughout the year as Rushing said she’s seen the nonprofit grow from their Kingsburg location to also serve London and Traver and operate a transitional home in town. They also have two missionary homes with permanent outreach efforts in those rural communities.

“It’s been a real blessing to just be a part of KCAPS and see the growth over the past 16 years,” Rushing said. “It’s huge. That’s all because of the support from people in our community.”

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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