The Pine Street Backpack program will once again provide backpacks filled with school supplies for local families who need them.

The grassroots program that started 13 years ago grew quickly as word spread. For the past 11 years, the program has served at least 1,000 area children annually. With the pandemic causing layoffs and higher rates of unemployment, program co-founder Tim Ester said the group expects to serve at least that many this year.

“We’re prepared,” he said.

In order to receive a backpack, families must pre-register, Ester said. Pre-registration will be conducted from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 1 and 8 at Pleasant Branch Baptist Church, 601 Spruce St. in Conway.

Masks are required and attendees are asked to help facilitate social distancing by only sending one family member (parent) to register when possible.

In previous years, the program would have a carnival with free food, door prizes and family-friendly games on the day of distribution.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group will distribute the filled backpacks without the carnival and lunch. Distribution will be at the church from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 22.

“We’re trying to get people in and out quickly to keep it as safe as possible,” Ester said.

Visit pinestreetpacks.com for more information. Anyone wanting to donate or sign up to volunteer can do so at the website.

Jeanette Anderton can be reached at janderton@thecabin.net.

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