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Event will give elementary students access to free school supplies

Paige Frion (left), Grace Groh, Trinity Kittelson and Mara Adams are part of a group helping organize a back to school event at Ellsworth Elementary School for families to pick up donated school supplies on Aug. 3. Zach Dwyer / RiverTown Multimedia

With a brand-new school comes new opportunities and events. On Aug. 3, Ellsworth Elementary School will host its first back-to-school event to provide families with donated school supplies for the upcoming year.

EES opened in January, creating one elementary school for the district. Elementary co-principal Mary Zimmerman said they've always received numerous donations for school supplies, but they come randomly throughout the year. With a new centralized location, she said the back-to-school event would be a good way to coordinate the donations since the district is now all in the same location.

The event allows the committee to target high-need items for donations and create a distribution event for all school items and back-to-school services.

The planning committee is made up of Zimmerman and high school teacher Anne Pechacek, along with an Ellsworth High School student planning committee. This includes Paige Frion, Grace Groh, Trinity Kittelson, Emily Paparelli and Mara Adams.

"Paige and I had wanted to do a capstone project for school, and we had talked to Ms. Pechacek and she had the idea," Groh said. "They've kind of done other programs like this at St. Francis or Prairie View, but not on this scale."

Students need 50 service hours to graduate, but they can go a step further by lettering in service learning/volunteering by doing 100 hours and performing a capstone project, which is an additional project that a student helps organize.

Groh said the project has helped show her that most people don't realize the work that goes into getting everything a kid needs. This includes haircuts, expensive school supplies and dental care.

"We are trying to get that all in one convenient place for families that they wouldn't be able to otherwise," Groh said. "With it being back to school, the haircuts could happen onsite or another time with a gift certificate ... it's one less thing to worry about paying for."

Fulfilling other people's needs that often are taken for granted is what Frion said she is most excited for.

"It's nice to help out people in the community, and we know that people need help," Frion said.

"Haircuts are an expense that you don't really think about that people can't afford, so they're a luxury to some. We thought it would be nice for them to receive them."

Contacting different hair salons to help out is one of the current tasks that Kittelson is trying to take care of. She said they've recently mailed out a checklist to local businesses to see if they can provide donations or services so the event can know who to count on.

"Some of our biggest items are backpacks, calculators, earbuds and shoes; anything that's more expensive than crayons and notebooks," Kittelson said. "We always get more paper products and coloring utensils."

There will also be a child care area for families with younger children that are picking out supplies, according to Adams, another committee member. This will allow parents to have an alternative option to having their kids run around with them while they're taking advantage of the different services and supplies available.

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 3, with stations set up in the cafeteria or classrooms with supplies, rooms for haircuts, areas to talk to dentists and a chance to pick up pre-filled backpacks with supplies for their specific grade.

"It's a lot of experimenting because it's our first year," Groh said. "It's an all-day event, and all of us will be helping with the setup. It's more focused towards elementary school, but we're not going to turn anyone away who needs school supplies."

Volunteers are still being gathered to operate the event, and the committee is still working to get more applications from local businesses to host supply drive boxes in their stores. There are currently three drop-off locations at Nilssen's, Freedom Valu Center and Family Dollar in Ellsworth.

This first year will be a learning experience, but Groh hopes by next year they will have an established process where businesses will be prepared for their donations and boxes. The committee made it clear that any company can donate, and just because they haven't been contacted yet doesn't mean they can't ask for a box. The boxes for items will also be picked up and dropped off at local businesses by the committee.

"Anyone that feels like they need something is welcome to come," Pechacek concluded. "There will be no background checks."

For more information you can contact Pechacek at or Zimmerman at

Zach Dwyer

Zach Dwyer is a senior journalism student at UW-River Falls. He is an intern reporter for RiverTown Multimedia during the summer of 2018 covering features and sports. He was previously a news intern in the summer of 2017 for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. 

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