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The sixth annual Back-to-School Backpack Giveaway and clothing event is set to be held Friday from 4-6 p.m. at the First Church of Christ Congregational in North Conway for ages 12-18. From left: Amy Edmunds, Lee Coffield, Sherry Hodgdon, president Holly Sares and executive director Emily Smith-Mossman sort clothing. Stephanie Brennick (not pictured) also helped Monday night. (TOM EASTMAN PHOTO)

CONWAY — The sixth annual Back-to-School Backpack Giveaway will return to North Conway's First Church of Christ, Congregational on Friday from 4-6 p.m. In recent years, the North Country Cares non-profit had held it at the North Conway Community Center.

"We're doing it once again at the church, because that's where our Revolving Closet is located," said North Country Cares Executive Director Emily Smith-Mossman, who asked that people drop off items at North Country Fair Jewelers in North Conway or at the Revolving Closet at the church by Thursday.

"We'll still take stuff through the 16th, but we're asking people to deliver them if possible by the 15th," said Smith-Mossman.

Volunteers also are needed to assist on Thursday from noon on to help fill the bags, and on Friday from 10 a.m. on to help organize items.

"While getting their backpacks, everyone can go upstairs and shop at the boutique, so it's all going to be right there," said Smith-Mossman.

The Revolving Closet is a free clothing boutique for kid and teens aged 12-18 on the top floor of the church building.

Like the Revolving Closet, the Back-to-School Giveaway event offers free clothing, school supplies and toiletries for families and youth in need. The items are stuffed into backpacks donated by community members.

"I am really expecting this will be a great year," said Smith-Mossman, who recently was named female volunteer of the year in the Sun's "Best of the Valley" Readers' Poll.     

She and board president Holly Sares said business support has been especially strong this year.

For example, Staples is offering a silver bag promotion in which patrons may donate money to fill bags with school supplies from the store. "They did 150 bags as of last week," said Smith-Mossman.

On Tuesday, the Premier Rent to Own Furniture Store in Mountain Valley Mall did a live radio broadcast with Magic 104 as part of an anniversary promotion while raising funds for North Country Cares. Raffle tickets were provided to donors, with prizes offered by local businesses, such as Story Land, Attitash and Valley Originals restaurants.

"We are so grateful for all of the support," said Sares.

Sares and Smith-Mossman said while the program is geared primarily for students in Mount Washington Valley, it is open to all.

"We've got people coming from Coos County and from western Maine," said Smith-Mossman.

"There is a new grandparents program in Wolfeboro," Sares said, "for people who are raising their grandchildren. and they'll be coming. Our backpack giveaway is for all children — it doesn't matter where they live."

Helping to get the church ready for Friday's sale are North Country Cares board vice president Louisa Gagnon, Amy Edmunds, Dede Frost, Adam Lane-Olsen, Sherry Hodgdon, Lee Coffield and Ari Moulton, with board members sorting through items Monday.

North Country Fair Jewelers, which is owned by Smith’s father, Brian Smith, is located at 2448 White Mountain Highway in North Conway and is open from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

To schedule a pickup, call Smith-Mossman (who manages the store) by calling (603) 662-3443.

Checks may be made payable to North Country Cares and mailed to P.O. Box 2722, North Conway, NH 03860.

Normal hours for The Revolving Closet are 2-5 p.m. on the first and third Sundays of every month or by appointment.

For more information, go to northcountrycares.org, call (603) 520-8274 or email emblah03@yahoo.com.

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