For kids heading back to class, the school year doesn’t start at the first bell.

One Connellsville church has made it a mission for the past six years to ensure children’s needs are met on the first day of school by providing adequate clothing and school supplies to local students.

The Rev. Kerri Clark, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, said her congregation’s annual back-to-school clothing giveaway scheduled for Saturday expects to assist more than 200 students in Connellsville Area School District by connecting them some necessities.

The event will give new clothing items and assorted school supplies to any Connellsville Area student who brings a school photo ID or report card as proof of attending the district.

Clark said the church wants Connellsville students to feel good about themselves and to be prepared for class as they return to school for a new year.

“Our goal with this project is that we really care about kids in the community, and we want them to know that they are loved,” said Clark. “We know that that can bring them confidence and joy as they start the new school year and help them to succeed.”

The annual giveaway is organized by members of the church’s Social Ministry Committee, which receives monetary and material donations from congregation members and various businesses and organizations in the communities.

Children will be able to choose several clothing items, including pants, shirts, sweatshirts, socks, underwear and shoes, as well as backpacks containing supplies.

“When we give stuff away, we don’t ask for proof of income. We just ask for proof of residency,” said Clark. “Our event has grown not just in the number of people we serve but in the number of donations we receive, as well.”

Clark said other local churches and congregations in Connellsville have been helpful in donating school supplies to ensure children are prepared to start the school year.

While the event predates Clark’s 2014 arrival at Trinity Lutheran, she has seen it grow over the last five years. Last year, she said, it attracted more than 200 children, which is roughly 5% of the Connellsville Area School District enrollment.

However, it is not necessary for children to attend the giveaway to get what they need.

“Sometimes it’s a mom or a grandma coming to get clothes for three or four kids,” Clark said. “The kids aren’t always present and they don’t need to be. Someone picking for the kids is fine.”

Volunteers will be inside the church to help families find sizes they need. All items are on a first-come, first-served basis.

The giveaway will run from 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 17. Trinity Lutheran Church is located at 126 E. Fairview Ave. in Connellsville.

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