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Lutherans distribute #039;tools#039;, smiles

Tiny Brooke Fradd of Ironton had fun Saturday, taking the crayons and coloring books out of her new backpack.

It was, after all, like Christmas in August - only without the gift wrap.

Brooke was one of hundreds of local children who visited St. Paul Lutheran Church and left with a backpack of school supplies, just in time for the start of classes.

"This is really helpful," said Brooke's grandmother, Sally Mowery, who accompanied Brooke and Brooke's mom, Amanda Mowery, to the church.

"I'd like to thank them for this. We do appreciate it. We need the help."

Lending a helping hand was the whole purpose of Saturday's "Tools for School" giveaway, said the Rev. Mike Poole. The giveaway was a joint effort between his church and All Saints Lutheran Church in Worthington, Ohio. Local businesses also made donations.

"We did second hand clothing last year and gave away a little bit of school supplies," Poole said. "Out of that, people said they really needed school supplies. So we did backpacks."

Church members loaded more than 1,000 backpacks.

The contents were grade-level appropriate, with high school students getting calculators and ink pens and spiral notebooks and elementary children getting paper, pencils and crayons.

Depending on the age of the student, the backpack contents ranged from $10 for preschool kids and more than $200 for older ones.

Frank Cooper of Ironton brought his two daughters, Laura, 9, and Krystal, 7. He also picked up a pack for his son, Jordan, who will be in first grade this year.

"This means a lot," Cooper said. "I didn't really have the money this year. This is great and this place is awesome. It's the most organized giveaway I've ever seen. It's well put together."

While backpacks waited in orderly stacks on tables in the church undercroft, hot dogs and other refreshments lay in a line on tables outside.

"This is fun," said Shawnee Fritz, who helped serve the food. "I helped make the popcorn."

Poole said he hoped that those who came for the backpacks and refreshments left knowing that regardless of what they face in life, they do not face their circumstances alone.

"I want them to know they matter. I believe anyone can make a difference. Sometimes people get in the system and they don't think they matter. We want to let people know they do matter."