Going back to school is an exciting time for many kids in Northern Utah: seeing old friends, buying new clothes, going to the store to pick out that special backpack.

Unfortunately, thousands of children in the community can’t afford that backpack. Or even basic school supplies.

Enter United Way of Northern Utah and Catholic Community Services, who have partnered with local businesses to help in situations like this. The Back to School drive, which has existed in different forms for years now, is an annual event that provides basic supplies for families in need. This year alone it helped deliver around 2,000 backpacks to underprivileged children.

The Back to School drive is just one of many events United Way of Northern Utah participates in, according to Marketing Manager Christy Jacobs. They have a long history of partnering with other nonprofits and businesses to improve the community. This includes workplace campaigns, where employees of a participating business are encouraged to raise donations for a worthy cause, food drives, in-school counseling for underprivileged students, community clean-ups, and many other projects.

“We’re kind of the backbone organization of that and the organizer,” Jacobs explained. “We host the meetings, we bring people together, we assist those agencies that are out providing the direct services.”

According to Jacobs, one of the biggest challenges United Way faces is simply informing the public of the services available to them.

“That’s a lot of what we do. We’re trying to spread the word, not just about what we have but about all of these resources. Because the families don’t even know they can go to Cottages of Hope and get all this amazing help. They don’t know that there’s a free preschool their kids can go to or that if their child has developmental delays, the state has resources for that.”

Local businesses have been a tremendous help to the cause, Jacobs said. In addition to the Back to School drive, there are a number of other partnerships that have been a boon to the community.

Take, for instance, Kimberly-Clark Corporation’s diaper donations. Rather than disposing of discontinued diaper models, the company instead donates them to the United Way where they are distributed to those in need (something any parent who has spent a paycheck paying for diapers will appreciate). This donation typically amounts to thousands upon thousands of diapers.

Then there is Cereal Day for United Way, hosted by Post Consumer Brands in Box Elder County. This popular annual event, now approaching its tenth year, allows the public to buy breakfast cereals at the discounted rate of $1 a bag. Proceeds then go to United Way and are used for other projects.

This year Post is expected to donate around 17,000 bags of cereal for the event, including such staples as Raisin Bran, Malt O’ Meal, and Frosted Flakes.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Northrop Grumman, Procter & Gamble, Associated Foods, Wex Bank — the list of successful partnerships with local businesses goes on and on. Through it all Jacobs and her colleagues are there to help, whether in the forefront or organizing things behind the scenes.