TOWNSEND -- Townsend children from families in need of a helping hand lined up in front of 82 Bayberry Hill Road just before school started to get school supplies for the upcoming year.

Bags of items listed on each grade's back-to-school list of necessities were passed out to the children of 21 different households at no cost to the families. The events of the day were thanks to the Townsend Ecumenical Outreach's annual school supplies distribution. The distribution is done along with the organization's monthly food program.

"People come in and shop, and for the ones who signed up their children, we had the bags already pre-packed and cards labeled in envelopes for each child," said Laurie Morency, vice-president of the organization.

Each bag held everything a school-aged child could need: notebooks, pencils, markers and rulers were just a few of the supplied items.

"Quite a few kids showed up. They were excited even though school was going to be starting. They were excited to see what was in their bag," said Morency.

The program wasn't exclusive in supplying only to kids going to school, either.

"For the younger kids, like the 2-year-olds, we gave out coloring books and crayons, so that they're getting something also," said Morency.

Even the youngest members walked away with something -- a concrete promise for a new set of shoes in the form of a $20 Payless shoe store gift card. Each child received one, regardless of age.


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"For infants in the program, they still got one. Whether you're 2 months or 18 years, you received a gift card," said Morency.

Funding for the supplies came entirely from the Townsend Ecumenical Outreach budget. The organization relies on several sources to help fun their program, among which include grants, fund-raising efforts, corporate and private donations and assistance from local churches.

In total, 52 kids and students were supplied for. The number varies each year, depending on how many families are participating in the program. Right now, they serve 86 families, which total around 200 Townsend residents, according to Morency.

"The majority are adults and children," she said. "When we first started (almost 30 years ago), it was mostly seniors, but now we see a lot of families because they're struggling."

Morency said she has seen the level of young family participation increase throughout the past 10 years. However, the roster of participants changes regularly depending on individual circumstances.

"Some people move, some people pass away. Some people get a better job, or get a job and don't need us anymore," said Morency.

Regardless, the organization remains an asset for residents in need, and members of the organization are always gratified to see the recipients benefit from their programs.

"The parents are so thankful. It's one less thing they have to worry about," said Morency. "It's heartwarming. For a small town, TEO does a lot."

The TEO also holds a monthly food distribution for Townsend residents and has a clothing center available to anybody from any community.

"We don't charge anything for clothing," said Don Ouillette, president of the organization. "If you see something there you like, feel free to grab it."

The food distribution is for Townsend residents. Interested residents who want to apply for assistance from the TEO or see a full list of services can get more information at tccucc.org/teo.