By Shawn Chitnis

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (CBS4)– Families in need of school supplies came to Stevens Elementary School in Wheat Ridge this week where they received a free backpack and other essential items for class. The supplies were collected by The Action Center to help 5,000 students.

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“Can you imagine what it would be like to go to school on the first day with all the other kids with their new backpack and their pencils and their paper, and you show up and you don’t have anything that you need to be ready to learn?” said Pam Brier, executive director of The Action Center.

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The Center took over the school for the school supply distribution event. Donations collected for the week represent a year of campaigning in the community and with the support of local businesses. Each day families show up based on last name to receive the needed supplies. They can go through a series of stations to pick the items they prefer for each student.

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“What we did today was come to the school today and get my supplies for the fourth grade,” said Lucy Swearingen.

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The young girl was with her mother and little sister to get supplies for both of them. She was excited to see the options for each item including her backpack and even erasers.

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“I liked it so much, there were a lot of supplies everywhere,” the future fourth grade student said,”I kind of liked all of the different colors.”

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Jeffco Public Schools has many families in need of this service each year. Volunteers say the low unemployment rate doesn’t mean there isn’t still a struggle. The cost of housing makes it difficult for parents to cover all the supplies needed each year. It can be as much as $93 per child, according to Brier.

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“Kids are excited to go back to school and we can see that excitement grow as they go through the line,” said Dr. Jason Glass, superintendent of the district.

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The Action Center is focused on helping more people become self-sufficient. In addition to events like this, the nonprofit serves the homeless. They are always looking for help to fund and support these type of events.

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“The average family who’s struggling to make ends meet, increasing costs of housing, electrical bills, we don’t want school supplies to be a tradeoff for them,” said Brier.

Families can keep coming to Stevens Elementary all week. Contact The Action Center to find out what day to arrive or register in advance. All families are welcome on Friday and Saturday. Some paperwork will be required.

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“You don’t want to feel different, you want to feel like you’re apart of things, and that you’re ready to go just like every other kid,” she said. “We’re making it possible for kids to go to school confident and excited for the new school year.”

LINK: The Action Center

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Shawn Chitnis reports weeknights for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Email him story ideas at and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.