PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria firefighters on Monday kicked off a two-month long school supply drive to increase community engagement and give back to the community.

‘Fill the Fire Truck’ is collaboration between the Afro-American Firefighters Association, Tri-County Urban League and Peoria Firefighters Local 50.

“For community engagement, the best thing to do…is to give back to students and teachers,” said Scott Howard, secretary of Afro-American Firefighters Association and member of Peoria Firefighters Local 50.

Howard said their goal is stuff between 100 and 200 backpacks with school uniforms and school supplies. The backpacks will be distributed on July 30 during Family Night at the Tri-County Urban League.

Howard said while growing up, many of his peers couldn’t afford school supplies.

“There were so many teachers had so much to do with the way I was raised, and the way that so many of them actually stepped out of their own comfort zone and went to the store and provided so many of us with supplies that our parents couldn’t,” he said.

Now, its their turn to give back.

“Also to support our teachers, and to build connections between the community and kind of form an approachable image. That the public knows they can come to us, interact with us and get to know us so we can serve them better,” he said.

Howard said the school supply drive is also a way to build relationships with the community.

“Just to be able to engage with the community on such a level where we can see actually them and touch them and give them things that’s what all of us came into public safety for. We wouldn’t be public safety without the public, and that’s what’s so important here…When they’re contacting us its usually on the worst day of their lives, and we want to be able to have them fall back on us and know that we’re reliable,” he said.

Donations will be accepted at all Peoria fire stations and the Tri-County Urban League. Howard said the most needed items are school uniforms for grades K-8, crayons, colored pencils, notebooks and backpacks.