The tools to succeed in school include everything from pencils to markers to dictionaries, but not all children will have those when they start in September.

'We're trying to help families who are struggling.'—Person quoted

The Salvation Army Community Centre is hoping to change that. It's launching its Back-To-School-Backpack Program to make sure kids in Regina and Saskatoon have what they need on their first day of classes.

"This time of year, when families are looking forward to getting kids back to school, some face it with anxiety and stress because the cost is sometimes a big challenge," said Major Doug Binner, The Salvation Army's community ministries director at Haven of Hope Ministries in Regina. "We're trying to help families who are struggling."

Supplies add up

According to a recent survey commissioned by Visa Canada, the average back-to-school shopper will spend $325 in-store and $163 online. 

Dianna Campbell, a mother of two, estimates she'll spend $50-$100. To cut costs, she makes her kids save and re-use the previous year's supplies.

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Dennis Gustafson and his granddaughter shop for school supplies. (CBC)

"This year I've collected everything that they've not used for the past few years," she said. "I've noticed that it cut down on the amount we'd have to purchase this year." Dennis Gustafson, whose granddaughter is entering Grade 2, estimates he'll spend $100 on her school supplies.

"I try to go to the bargain stores where you can get fairly decent prices," he said. "They also carry all the brand names which is what the list asks for, so you have to get those."

Buy an extra pack to donate

The Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre is also collecting school supplies. Executive director Laurie O'Connor said that if you can afford it, buy another package of new pens or pencils and donate the item.

"Going back to school can be very stressful and very expensive," she said. "Families are trying to have school lunches ready to go, they're trying to have clothing for their children, and of course, we know what the list is like for back to school. So if we can help out in any way, we're happy to do that."

How to donate

The Salvation Army is seeking donations so it can get the school supplies into the hands of students. It's looking for the following new items: dictionaries, thesauruses, USB sticks, scientific calculators, headphones, crayons, markers, rulers, glue, erasers, pencils, pens, money to purchase supplies and backpacks.

Saskatoon: Contact Laurie Gerein or Sylvia Stevensen 306-242-6833.

Regina: Drop off supplies at Salvation Army Thrift Stores or at the Haven of Hope Ministries on 2240 13th Avenue.

Saskatoon Food Bank & Learning Centre is asking people in Saskatoon to drop off extra supplies at its depot on Avenue C.

In need of school supplies

If you would like to apply to receive a backpack filled with school supplies for your child you can contact:

Saskatoon: Contact Sylvia Stevenson at 306-242-6833 (priority given to children who don't receive a school allowance).

Regina: Drop by the Haven of Hope Ministries on 2240 13th Avenue.