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Edmonton duo hands out backpacks full of school supplies to families in need

Selah Smith and Jack Shultz collected backpacks filled with school supplies to hand out to more than 200 kids whose families are struggling to buy their back-to-school supplies. Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. Julien Fornier, Global News

What started as a small social media movement to help a handful of families with back-to-school supplies has grown to help more than 200 kids go back to class with everything they need.

Jack Shultz said it all started when he saw a number of families posting on social media about their struggle to afford school supplies for their kids.

“With the COVID and people not working, the struggle is really, really tough and when I see all these single families on social media, their number one concern right now is just helping the child get back to a normal life at school.”

Read more: ‘It’s a nervous energy’: Edmonton students head back to school amid COVID-19 pandemic

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A father of seven, Shultz wanted to do what he could, so he also took to social media to ask if anyone had supplies they could donate. Originally, he had 17 families in mind to provide backpacks and supplies to, but that quickly grew thanks to a number of generous donations.

“Within 48 hours we already hit 45 people and then by the next morning it was just outrageous. It just kept coming,” he said, adding people also donated hundreds of dollars to the cause.

“It turned into a four-day adventure. We’ve already delivered 234 school bags to students in need and we’re out again today.”

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Selah Smith lives in the St. Albert area, saw what Shultz was doing and couldn’t help but jump in for the cause.

“School time in general for people is a struggle so when it comes to COVID and everything else, that obviously takes a toll,” she said.

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“Backpacks in general, it’s quite a bit of money for parents who are struggling.

“So we decided if we could collect backpacks and fill them with school supplies for the 17 children we originally had, we knew we’d be helping out majorly. I don’t think we expected to get this many.”

Read more: Edmonton Public Schools still finalizing online learning plans as in-person instruction begins

Smith has a daughter of her own and has relied on things like Christmas hampers and the food bank, so the opportunity to help others was a no-brainer.

“I have free time right now so I wanted to jump on board with paying it forward because I’ve had so many people in my past and right now help me out in my day-to-day life.”

The pair said what they get back in return is just as rewarding.

“So many people would think that this is just such a simple thing that you wouldn’t think it would change somebody’s life,” Smith said.

“It helps tremendously and it’s the look on people’s faces and the reaction of children seeing school supplies that they thought they weren’t going to get, is the most rewarding feeling.”

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“We decided as long as a child still needs a bag let’s just keep going and we’re going to keep going until the donations run out,” Shultz added. “I’m hoping maybe we’ll hit the 300 mark by the end of the week.”

Anyone who wants to help can reach out to Shultz on Facebook.

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