Six-year-old Madelynn Shue was ready to head to first grade as she stood in Aberdeen's Target, quietly holding the teal-and-black backpack with a big, glittery heart that she had picked out for herself.
With the help of a Salvation Army volunteer, Madelynn continued her blue theme, choosing a small, blue composition book from the notebook section.
She was one of about 20 children at the store Tuesday morning for a shopping trip sponsored by Target and organized by The Salvation Army for Harford County families served by the non-profit.
Almost 500 Target stores nationwide are partnering with The Salvation Army to help 12,000 students in need, according to the non-profit's website.
The store gave $80 gift cards to each child, according to the website.
Denise Stewart, a lieutenant in The Salvation Army in Havre de Grace, said the amount was more than enough to cover basic supplies, but could not be used for clothes or other items.
"They have blessed us with enough for 20 kids," Stewart said, explaining it was the store's idea to let the children pick out their own supplies.
"It's something Target prefers us to do," she said. "It makes it very personal for them."
The store has specific guidelines the non-profit must follow. Parents came to the event with their children, but they were not allowed to shop with them.
"I believe Target has been generous with their support of us in this initiative," Stewart, who just began working with the Havre de Grace Salvation Army after moving from West Virginia, said about the program.
"School supplies cost a lot," she added. "The things kids are expected to have increase every year."
The parents, volunteers and children gathered in the food court area before being released to shop. Most of them had attended The Salvation Army camp earlier in the summer and already knew each other.
While the shopping program is open to those from kindergarten through 12th grade, the children were all in elementary or middle school.
"We just had a need in the younger ages," Stewart said.
The program means a lot to residents like Shari Baldwin, of Edgewood, who had also been a bell ringer for the Salvation Army.
Baldwin is the grandmother of four children for whom she is the legal guardian. Two of them, Jackie and Alana Akins, were shopping that day.
The two were "so excited" to do their own shopping and Jackie, for example, was eager to pick out an Angry Birds backpack, Baldwin said.
The trip allowed Baldwin to put her limited funds toward paying for school supplies and equipment for her two older children.
"By taking the slack off the two of them [Jackie and Alana], it helps me distribute the funds I have for the other school activities," she said.
Jamie Johnson, of Havre de Grace, brought three children: Camryn Worthy, Reality Worthy and Robbie Foster.
She said they all love school shopping and The Salvation Army has been very helpful.
"It's awesome," Johnson said about the shopping spree. "It helps my children. The church does a lot for my children."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun