As another school year is about to begin — with ongoing challenges for students and teachers — helping provide supplies kids need is more important than ever.

Those who can help can do so for both local students and kids around the world.

The Operation Christmas Child collection slated in mid-November at Hilltop United Methodist Church helps distribute school supplies to kids in several countries, including African and Caribbean nations.

And people still have until this Sunday to donate supplies for local students.

Kids already facing struggles don’t want to feel different from other kids at school and ensuring they have the right supplies can give them more confidence, not to mention taking some financial strain off their parents.

The drive for local school kids is sponsored by Old National Bank and United Way.

Colored pencils, markers, glue sticks, whiteboard markers, erasers and other new school supplies may be dropped off at: Circle Inn, 232 Belgrade Ave.; Curiosi-Tea, 1745 Commerce Drive; North Mankato Taylor Library, 1001 Belgrade Ave., all in North Mankato. And Eide Bailly Building, 111 S. Second St.; Mankato Family YMCA, 1401 S. Riverfront Drive; Sadaka’s Deli, 1400 Madison Ave., Suite 626; Snell Motors, 1900 Madison Ave.; Store It, 2015 Bassett Drive, all in Mankato.

The United Methodist collection seeks supplies for kids in three age categories: 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14.

While the church collection is a few months off, it’s a good time for people who are now shopping for back to school supplies to pick up a few more to donate. At the collection event volunteers will pick up gifts dropped off outside of the church.

The Friends of Learning Backpack program in St. Peter are also looking for volunteers to help sort and stuff 700 backpacks for the upcoming school year. There will be multiple shifts from Tuesday to Thursday, at Johnson Hall, Nicollet County Fairgrounds. (Direct questions to Michelle Zehnder Fischer at Michelle.ZehnderFischer@co.nicollet.mn.us.)

There are other opportunities for people to help out throughout the year. Many other local organizations host various events to help kids, including getting food to kids in the summers when they’re out of school, providing winter clothing and getting school supplies to students in need.

All kids deserve to have the supplies, clothing and food they need to do well in school. An educated population is the key to future success here at home and across the globe. Good education also prepares kids for civic life, something that’s more important than ever in this divisive time.

If you can help out, look for a way you can improve a student’s life, be it donating supplies or money or volunteering.

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