AUGUSTA — With the start of school looming, members of the Augusta Elks Lodge plan a back to school giveaway of items they say are tools kids need to have a chance to be successful in the classroom.

It’s pretty basic stuff — including pens, pencils, notebooks, backpacks, lunch boxes, clothing and healthy snacks.

“These are basic items kids need to have for school,” said Mike Michaud, exalted ruler of the Augusta Elks Lodge. “But, believe it or not, a lot of kids in these communities start school with nothing but the shirt on their backs. Close to 50 percent of kids going to schools in the city of Augusta are at or under the poverty level. So there is a definite need for these things, to give these kids a fighting chance.”

So the Augusta Elks, in the first of what they hope will become an annual event, plan to give away school supplies and other items to students from the greater Augusta area, which Michaud noted doesn’t just include Augusta itself, but also surrounding communities such as Hallowell, Winthrop and China.

The giveaway is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Augusta Elks Lodge at 397 Civic Center Drive. Most schools start next week, with the first student day in Augusta coming Wednesday.

While the event is meant to help low-income families, no one will be turned away and there will not be any screening or any income limits on who may receive items.

“We’re hoping the people who are coming are people that truly have a need, but we’re not going to turn anybody away,” Michaud said. “If someone shows up in a Rolls Royce, shame on them, but we’re trying to help as many people as we can.”

Elks and other volunteers at the event will also reach out to local students in other ways, offering drug awareness and anti-bullying information and a martial arts demonstration. A representative of youth scouting organizations will be on hand.

A free lunch will also be provided.

Michaud said they have between 75 and 100 backpacks, lots of snacks, and cases of notebooks, pens and other school supplies. Different items will be available to students of different ages, from pre-kindergarten into high school.

The event is funded in part by a $1,500 grant to the local lodge from the national Elks organization, part of the national organization’s celebration of the Elks’ 150th anniversary, coming up Feb. 16, 2018.

Michaud, whose wife Lina is chairwoman of the event, said money and items were also donated for the event by local residents, businesses and other organizations.

Michaud said they’re not sure how many people to expect but they hope it will become an annual event and grow each year so it will help more and more students. He said a similar event in Boothbay began several years ago and has grown to help around 500 kids a year.

“There are many students in this area that will start school unprepared, for many different reasons,” Michaud said. “We want to do our part to give every student the best chance to succeed right out of the gate.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj