More than 750 backpacks given away during holidays

CHAMPAIGN — On Tuesday, when temperatures topped out in the mid-40s, a man walked into the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen with no coat.

Volunteers handed him a jacket donated during the agency's backpack drive in December, which brought in more than 800 backpacks full of cold-weather gear and other supplies — twice the amount collected in 2010.

"It was nice to have some on hand for those situations," said volunteer Ellen Harms, who helped coordinate the drive.

More than 750 backpacks were handed out to men, women and children over the holidays at Daily Bread, 124 W. White St., C.

"We gave away 550 the first day in just about an hour and a half, which is pretty amazing," Harms said. "The line stretched two or three blocks down Randolph. People were in good spirits; they were orderly. It was just a really nice thing."

Over the next two days, 200 more backpacks were given out at the soup kitchen, and volunteers held back 75 to 100 to give out to people over the course of the winter.

"We get a lot of people who come straight from prison who have nothing," Harms said.

In all, the drive brought in 217 backpacks for children, 177 for women and more than 400 for men — "too many to count," Harms said. The supply for women and children was exhausted the first day.

"We got more children than we expected in line," Harms said, attributing that in part to the relatively warm weather.

Volunteers also ended up with a surplus of gloves, hats, mittens and socks that will be handed out at Daily Bread's weekend mobile food van, where people stand in the cold for a sandwich and cup of coffee, Harms said.

"It was really an amazing success," she said.

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