On a steamy summer day, fall feels far away, but it's time to start gathering school supplies

When the weather forecast includes temperatures in the 90s, it's hard to think about back to school. But that's just what the United Way of Bay County is doing this month.

The United Way and the Wirt Family Foundation kicked off their joint Helen Wirt Lee Back to School Clothing & Backpack program. For more than a decade, the program has provided new shoes, socks, shirts, pants, and undergarments to students returning to school in the fall. The Bay Area Community Foundation's Youth Advisory Committee also fills backpacks with school supplies for the kids.

“The mission of the program is to alleviate some of the strain that back-to-school shopping can put on families, particularly those in the ALICE population or below,” says Nicole Luczak, CEO of the United Way of Bay County. “We hope those in the community who may need a little extra help take advantage of this program and everything it has to offer.”

When children arrive at school prepared, it increases their chances of educational success. And a good education leads to a sustainable adulthood.

“We want all kids to return to school confident and prepared, ready to learn. The first step to that is providing them with these basic necessities,” Luczak says.

In Bay County, 21% of families are within the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) threshold and an additional 15% are in poverty. That adds up to about 35% of our community struggling to meet everyday needs.

Typically, over 1,000 children benefit from this program compared to the nearly 8,000 who qualify for it.

To help with the project, contact the United Way at either (989) 893-7508 or kayla@unitedwaybaycounty.org. You can also donate online

To apply, visit the United Way of Bay County website or call (989) 893-7508.