CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Many families have endured the challenges of back-to-school shopping in the past, but this year has posed even greater hurdles. From inflation to gas prices, even devastating losses of our youth in Central Illinois. Parents and kids have a lot to manage. That’s why relief was given this week.

It was thanks to a partnership and effort by the Salvation Army of Champaign County and Walmart . Together, they collected donations of school supplies from the community at area stores in bins and those supplies were packed and distributed starting on Wednesday. The distribution drive was meant to end today.

Instead, it closed down Thursday, a day in advance because so many families took advantage of the offering. Over 600 bags were provided on the first day by noon time. Leaving Salvation Army volunteers scrambling and hoping to meet everyone’s needs. Still, there will be families without. That makes Valarie Gordon, a grandmother and Champaign resident, grateful she got what she needed for her two grandchildren already.

“It’s very, very helpful to me because I am a grandmother taking care of two grandkids. Three and four. It’s very helpful because my income is low and it helps me a lot. I know it’s helping a lot of other people.”

But Valarie’s grandbabies aren’t the only young children who benefitted from the Salvation Army’s giveaway. Grace Fuka, an incoming sixth grader at Jefferson Middle School, attended with her sister and father, all three from the Republic of the Congo. With supplies taken care of, Grace can focus on an important class.

This year, she has a French class that she already foresees helping with her personal life at home. For now, she’s unable to maneuver her country’s native language and that places barriers between her and family, in particular, her mom. Grace also witnessed other kids like her getting supplies, witnessing the value of giving.

“Cause in case their parents don’t have enough money to buy all those supplies, that they can just get supplies here for free.”

The Salvation Army of Champaign County is offering potential supplies to those in desperate need. They say you can visit their food pantry from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. But you can also learn more about the non-profit and the other ways they serve our community in need. Just click here.

To get involved, click here and to donate to the organization, click here.