Dream Center holds 19th annual Backpack Peoria giveaway

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Dream Center Peoria isn’t allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to stop a tradition it’s held for nearly two decades.

Families got up bright and early, Saturday morning, waiting in line for backpacks filled with free school supplies for the Fall school year.

Kristen Shadwell said Backpack Peoria is providing an extra service this year to families in the area.

“Having a house full of children, it’s hard to come by school supplies especially when you haven’t been able to work,” Shadwell said.

Andy King, executive director of Dream Center Peoria, said the event has always been held indoors, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said they had to make some changes this year.

“We did a drive-thru version of Backpack Peoria and we are giving away two thousand backpacks,” King said.

King said officials at UnityPoint Health allowed them to use their parking lot for the drive-thru portion.

More than 40 volunteers and staff members handed out backpacks, uniform cards for students and provided medical exams in the Dream Center parking lot.

Parents who came said the service is a blessing, especially in the age of COVID-19 where many no longer have a job.

“It’s very important that you guys [Dream Center] are still offering the book bags,” Patricia Davis said. “We are so grateful, the kids are so grateful.”

“A lot of parents depend on this day right here to send their kids back to school and a year ago I was that mother sending two kids off to school,” Phyllis Wilson said. “Now I still have one to send back and Backpack Peoria came through for me.”

King said over the years they’ve given away around 100,000 bags. He said the motivation to keep going is seeing the need in the community.

“There are still students that are going to school that need backpacks, that need medical, that need uniforms,” King said.

He said as long as there’s a need, the Dream Center will be there.

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