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About 240 local families received school supplies this week with the Salvation Army’s eighth annual school supply drive.

Almost 500 backpacks, 434 shoe gift cards, 974 articles of clothing and 13 pairs of shoes were given away, Salvation Army Lieutenant Niki Woollin said Wednesday.

For single mom Nichol England, the drive meant not having to worry how her three children would get back to school essentials.

The Salvation Army has helped England pay her rent three times over the past eight years she said.

“We only come here when we really need it,” England said at Wednesday’s distribution, holding three backpacks filled with supplies for her children, ages 5, 6 and 9.

For England, a registered nursing assistant who is unemployed, the supplies eased a big burden

“If I didn’t have this I would have still figured it out. I would do what I have to do. I’m a mom — but this made things a lot less stressful,” she said.

The backpacks and supplies were donated by the Red Canoe Credit Union, who collected 3,000 pounds of back-to-school items from clients, businesses and the community at large, said Amy Davis, Red Canoe’s vice president of marketing.

The credit union will match the donations in coming weeks, she said. This year’s drive raised 200 pounds more than last year’s, said Davis. She attributed the success of the drive to an improving economy, which enabled businesses to participate. This year 19 businesses contributed, up from 12-15 last year, she said.

Among the most generous businesses were Twin City Glass, Stuart Title, Mint Valley Credit Union, Early Bird Lions Club, Simpson Lumber and the Telephone Pioneers, Davis said.

Salvation Army also received donations from Fred Meyer and community members, Woollin said.

To receive supplies, clients had to show a medical card proving they receive state benefits, Woollin said.

For Suzanne Batey, it was the third year she was at the school supplies distribution. “We only come here if we really need it,” she said, adding that she has come to the facility for food assistance in the past.

Batey was receiving supplies for her 15-year-old daughter, she said.

“We’re homeless right now and staying with relatives and my cash assistance dropped. We might have not been able to get supplies if not for this.”

Shira Moskowitz covers Kelso city government, local social services and Columbia County (Ore.) for The Daily News. Reach her at 360-577-2542 or smoskowitz@tdn.com.

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