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story.lead_photo.caption The smile on 5-year-old Daniel Walker says it all. He's tickled to have a school backpack full of supplies. With him at Piney Grove Baptist Church are, from left, Pamela Peavy, Lilly Holley, Carly Rowell, Erin Coats, Amy Rushing and Tommie Finley. Photo by Neil Abeles / Texarkana Gazette.

The school backpack is ubiquitous. Each child — especially in early grades — needs one and wears it proudly.

"Keeps them organized. Their backpack is full of stuff all the time," teacher Amy Rushing said.

So when the Piney Grove Baptist Church congregation heard recently from one of its members, who is also a schoolteacher, that backpacks were needed, they acted. They spent three weeks preparing 100 gift backpacks filled with supplies. Distribution day was last Saturday.

Church member Tommie Finley was surprised at how many students responded.

"All the backpacks were given out in the first hour. We could have prepared 500. Next year, if we do this again, we may try to do that," she said.

The backpacks were a project of the church's Young Adult GIFT Class, with GIFT standing for "Growing In Faith Together."

"We heard about the need from Lavon Francis, one of our church members who is a teacher," Finley said. "It seems sometimes the student may have a backpack, but not containing all the supplies needed."

The church planned for an about four-hour distribution party that included refreshments. Then the church workers were all smiles at how well and how quickly the event turned out.

"At least these 100 will have a backpack that can help keep them organized. Sometimes the bags get ripped and have to be replaced during the year. So they are very important to the student," Rushing added.

"We're tickled at the response. The student feels left out if they do not have one," Finley said.

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