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A drive-through distribution

Urban Mission taking different approach to handing out school supplies Aug. 13-14

GETTING READY — Although Urban Mission Ministries won’t have its usual Back-to-School Bash that has included festivities in addition to providing school supplies, the distribution of some items will be conducted through a drive-through giveaway set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 13 and 14 in the green area behind the Seventh Street Plaza in downtown Steubenville. Cynthia Lytle, the mission’s program director and community developer, sorts through some notebooks provided for the event that has been modified in light of safety precautions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s distribution will be targeting students in grades five through 12. For opportunities to help, contact Lytle at (740) 282-8010 or clytle@urbanmission.org. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — Whether area students return to actual classrooms or virtual learning environments in the coming weeks to begin the 2020-21 school year, one thing is certain, according to Urban Mission Ministries.

They’ll need school supplies of some sort.

For Urban Mission, the challenge becomes not only collecting some of those educational needs, but distributing them in a different approach with safety precautions taken in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The plan?

A drive-through giveaway will offer free school supplies for all local schools, this year helping specifically students in fifth grade through 12, explained Cynthia Lytle, the mission’s program director and community developer. “We’re preparing for 700 bags.”

The two-day drive-through for vehicles will be conducted behind the Seventh Street Plaza in downtown Steubenville from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 13 and Aug. 14, while supplies last.

Walkers also will be welcome and are advised to “just look for the tent.”

“Over the past several months, we’ve made changes to all of our service operations to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and our community members, so when we thought about back to school, that rolled right over into how we distribute items this year,” Lytle said. “So the first thing that happens is that we won’t have a bash, but we still know that kids need supplies so what that turned over into is a drive-through distribution.”

In past years, the mission’s annual Back-to-School Bash has been held in a blocked-off area downtown with a festive environment featuring music by Steubenville High School’s marching band, free food, informational booths, games and giveaways. The threat of inclement weather moved the 2019 event indoors to the Seventh Street Plaza location.

The giveaway has been an end-of-summer tradition for 20-plus years, according to Lytle.

“There was an organization called B.A.S.I.C. Circle that headed this up and for some years it was at Harding Stadium, but most people are familiar with the celebration in the past, it took place right right here on North Street,” she said of the event that has attracted more than a thousand people. “We’ve distributed anywhere from 1,500 to 1,600 backpacks, and we had community agencies setting up tables and participating and just engaging with students and families, and that side of it sadly goes away this year,” she said.

But despite community partners, agencies and businesses being unable to have a presence as they have in the past, they are still being invited to provide materials, resources and giveaways to be included in the distribution.

With some school districts providing a set of supplies for students, the mission’s distribution will specifically target fifth-graders to 12th-graders. Any donated items received for younger children will be given to local schools to distribute accordingly, a mission Facebook post notes.

“A big part of our preparation for this year’s giveaway was reaching out to local school districts to see what exactly was the need, and so what we found was that most of the schools will be supplying for elementary students, which would be K through four,” Lytle said.

The emphasis will be on specific supplies, with the list including pencils, pens, one-subject notebooks, filler paper, colored pencils, glue sticks, composition notebooks, two-pocket folders and erasers.

Items can be dropped off at the Urban Mission warehouse at 311 N. Sixth St., Steubenville. To provide a financial gift, checks can be made payable to Urban Mission and mailed to 423 North St., Steubenville OH 43952 with “school supplies” in the memo line.

Recipients need not register to participate in the drive-through distribution. Students don’t have to be present either, a past requirement. “Obviously, we’re a little bit more lenient as well, because we realize that there are some parents who still aren’t comfortable with taking their children outside or just kind of interacting with people and so we will just kind of go off the honor system,” she said.

The distribution taking place in the green space behind the Seventh Street Plaza will have flaggers, staff and volunteers helping to navigate people through and bring supplies to their vehicles. “There will be tents set up with supplies, and while we’re calling it a drive-through distribution, walkers are welcome. We will have tents to accommodate people who are walking and don’t have transportation,” she added.

Contact with principals has brought requests for basic needs, according to Lytle. That includes pencils, pens, notebooks and filler paper. “We’re throwing in composition notebooks, glue sticks and colored pencils. The middle school principal for Harding was saying that organizational items were a big thing, so the two-pocket folders we want to bump up the amount that we actually give them this year so that they can keep their materials separated for each class. Those are really the basics.”

But if people want to donate masks, hand sanitizers or wipes and tissues, that “would be greatly appreciated” too, she added.

The donation deadline is Aug. 7. Questions can be directed to Lytle by phone at (740) 282-8010 or by e-mail at clytle@urbanmission.org.

There are some volunteer opportunities with anyone interested directed to connect with Tiffany Beckwith, community engagement director, at the same number or by e-mail to tbeckwith@urbanmission.org.

“Regardless of whether they find themselves in school at the end of August or working from home remotely, children are going to need supplies,” Lytle said. “They still need the tools for their education. Maybe it’ll bring some type of hope that the kids get the opportunity to pick up a bag full of supplies and maybe in some way it will take their mind off of the fact that school might look a little different this year, but maybe that bag (of supplies) is one thing that will be normal for them,” she continued.

“I pray that they feel all the love that goes into each and every bag.

(Kiaski can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

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