JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — More than a thousand backpacks are being filled with school supplies and zipped up. They’re getting ready to go to families in need in Jackson.

“We have a lot of kids that could really use the help and families that can use the help. Especially the last two years have been really trying for kids and schools,” said Wellness team leader at First United Methodist Church, Fran Adams.

Adams is one of the leaders behind what’s being called the ‘Back to School Blast.’ She says she’s seen the need for support continue to grow.

“The statistics are really sobering,” said Adams.

Research from the Salvation Army in Jackson shows that 31% of Jackson kids live in poverty. It’s a number that inspires Adams and her team at First United Methodist Church along with dozens of other groups to be there for their community one backpack at a time. 

“We feel like that would be the thing that could help them, motivate them to be better adults and better contributors to our community as they grow up and just be more successful,” continued Adams.

The free program kicks off on Thursday and will also help connect anyone in need with several resources, including free vision and dental exams. Volunteers like Candy Poleski call it an all-hands-on-deck approach.

The team says they hope when the kids open the backpacks it leaves them feeling inspired.

“That they open it up and they are excited. That they want to use those crayons or markers or pens. Whatever we’ve got in there and they are excited to go back to school and they are excited to learn,” said Poleski.

The event starts Thursday at Horace Blackman Park and will run from 3 to 7 p.m.