CHAMPAIGN — In the 11th year of giving out backpacks to hundreds of people in need at Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, Ellen Harms and her fellow volunteers have learned a lot.
For one, they’ve made sure to check the bags ahead of time to make sure they have everything the people they’re serving need, including new clothes, shampoo, and other necessities. One year, she opened up a bag and found a bowling ball — a consequence of her daughter leaving her bag out when volunteers were scooping up donations at her house.
“Every year, it gets a little smoother,” she said.
On Friday, around 900 bags were stacked behind the lunch counter at Daily Bread as hoards of people stood outside in unseasonably warm weather. The giveaway started at 10 a.m., and by around noon, they’d given out around 600.
“The weather helped a lot today,” Harms said. “We’ve done this when it’s ice and snow outside, and you have people standing out in the cold, and the kids are really cold.”
The donations have come a long way since the event’s inception, when around 400 backpacks were donated.
“This year, we felt like there were more groups that took on the project: church groups, book clubs, school groups, girl scouts,” Pam Hagle said. “We had people from Christie Clinic — different departments are going to try to challenge each other next year to see how many they can do. A lot of people think it’s a fun thing to do for a group.”
They also received more bulk donations of supplies, which helped round out bags that needed additions.
Out of the hundreds of people she helped, one person stood out to Johanna Harms, whose bowling ball was nearly donated a few years ago.
“They said they were going to wait until Christmas morning to open it,” she said. “It’s just kind of heartwarming.”