Backpack giveaway file photo

In this file photo from August 2020, state Rep. Mike Sturla delivers an order of backpacks to a recipient during his annual Back to School backpack giveaway at Clipper Magazine Stadium. Volunteers are needed for this year's event, being planned for August.

For the past decade, a dedicated team of community members, led by state Rep. Mike Sturla, has spent months planning an event in Lancaster City to ensure that students are returning to school ready to succeed. Countless hours go toward collecting donations, sorting materials, stuffing backpacks and recruiting thousands of students to attend.

Although life in COVID-19 times still seems very different for most families, we are hoping that holding this event will give some normalcy to students who have participated for years. Our mission is to make sure that all children in Lancaster city have the supplies that they need to succeed in school. It is our hope that this will help to alleviate some of the anxiety some students and families have about returning to school.

The 10th annual Back to School Giveaway is currently scheduled to take place on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 14 and 15, at Clipper Magazine Stadium, 650 N. Prince St.

Preregistration is required, and participants will choose their designated day and time slot upon registration.

During the event, School District of Lancaster students in kindergarten through eighth grade will receive a free backpack, uniform, shoes, masks and more. New for this year will be the inclusion of books sorted by grade level.

Extra care is being taken to ensure that all attendees are able to maintain social distancing while collecting their items.

Families who would like to register for this event can do so at and are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible.

There are several ways that volunteers can help with the Back to School Giveaway.

There will be teams working on stuffing backpacks the week of Aug. 9 to make sure that each family can collect their supplies in a safe and timely manner. In addition to backpack stuffing, volunteers will be needed on the days of the event to assist in setup, distribution and cleanup at Clipper Stadium.

Other volunteer opportunities also may become available as the event gets closer.

If you are interested in volunteering, please use the registration link in the Get Connected Volunteer Portal at www.UWLanc.Org/Volunteer.

For those looking to help, but are not able to volunteer, there are also donation and sponsorship opportunities available! We hope that you will join us in celebrating a decade of supporting students in the School District of Lancaster.

Other opportunities

Here are some other ways you can get involved in the community:

• ECHOS in Elizabethtown serves individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness, are at risk of homelessness or are in need of services.

Volunteers are always needed to help move clients and their belongings into local apartments.

For more information, please contact the volunteer/donation coordinator at or call 717-689-3423, ext. 200.

• Art of Recycle in Ephrata is looking for volunteers, ages 12 and up, who would be interested in joining their team.

There are all sorts of tasks that need to be accomplished, such as sorting art supplies, putting together crafting kits, assisting with events (online and in-person), sewing finger puppets and assisting with organizing and displaying merchandise.

To learn more, please reach out to Linda Johnson at or call 717-466-6966.

• The Lancaster General Health Blood Donor Center encourages people to donate blood and platelets as often as possible.

LG Health sponsors community blood drives each month throughout Lancaster County. Blood that is collected stays in Lancaster County to benefit members of our community.

All blood donors must schedule an appointment to come to the blood drives at or by calling 717-544-0177. Donors will receive a beach towel.

Nonprofit organizations in Lancaster County are encouraged to publish volunteer needs in this column. For a copy of submission guidelines, or for answers to questions about volunteering in Lancaster County, contact United Way’s Volunteer Center at 717-824-8122 or email

Audrey Lilley is the manager of volunteerism and advocacy at United Way of Lancaster County.

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