Backpack through Lexington loaded up with school supplies

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday ­— as in tonight — Jack and Ann Salyer invite you to stop by NorthEast Christian Church and join their friends, fellow church members and strangers as they help students in need.

”You don't have to bring anything,“ Jack Salyer said. ”Just yourself.

”It will be a night of fun, ­fellowship, food and surprises, and work.“

In other words, wear comfortable shoes and clothing, and bring your best altruistic attitudes.

This is the church's third ­annual Power Pack Nite, at which volunteers stuff 2,000 backpacks with school supplies and hygiene products for children in ­Appalachian schools in Kentucky and ­Tennessee.

NorthEast has partnered with ­Mission of Hope, a faith-based charity in Knoxville that focuses its attention and donations on families in the ­financially challenged Appalachian Mountain region. Volunteers in ­Knoxville planned to fill 8,000 backpacks earlier this week, in addition to the 2,000 being filled in Lexington.

In Kentucky, the backpacks will be going to children in Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Harlan, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Leslie, Letcher, Owsley, Perry and Whitley counties.

Salyer said NorthEast has adopted Owsley County Elementary School, and about 600 of the backpacks will remain in Lexington so volunteers can deliver them personally to Owsley County.

Busy tonight and can't make it?

Catherine Warner, youth and children coordinator at LexLinc, said she needs volunteers to fill backpacks for the upcoming Ready, Set, Go! Lexington Neighborhood Backpack Rallies. Volunteers are needed at Transylvania ­University's William T. Young Campus Center on Tuesday, beginning at 9 a.m., and Wednesday to help load vans that will take backpacks to distribution centers.

Those backpacks will be given out from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at 16 neighborhood sites in Lexington. Call Warner, (859) 381-1302, Ext. 228, for more information.

This is crunch time for putting school supplies in the hands of the children who need them.

Schools open Aug. 13 in Fayette County and Aug. 7 in Owsley County.

Salyer's volunteers will go to Boone­ville Aug. 11, where officials there have scheduled an assembly at the elementary school for the backpack giveaway.

Mission of Hope will provide the school supplies to NorthEast, where Salyer and his wife will coordinate the assembly-line filling system, he said.

In addition to school supplies, the backpacks will contain hygiene products like toothpaste and toothbrushes and a spiritual bookmark urging students to have a good year.

Salyer said about 175 people pitched in last year, and he's had a couple of phone calls from members of a church in Versailles who plan to attend. Last year, folks from Georgetown drove over to give a hand.

I've asked my prayer group, which meets on Thursday evenings, to head over to NorthEast and do what we can.

And that's what Salyer would like. He wants people from throughout the ­community — businesses, churches, civic groups — to give an hour or two to make a young child's school year start out right.

If you have the time, meet us there.

If not, see Warner at Transylvania on Tuesday or Wednesday.

It's not often we can do something so easy to make all involved feel better.