The rain didn’t stop hundreds of parents and kids from waiting in line at the Sullivan Arena Wednesday to pick up school supplies at the annual HUGSS Drive. HUGSS stands for Helping Us Give School Supplies.

Last year, so many people showed up that items ran out. 

According to the Anchorage School District, over the past 10 years statistics show that the percentage of “economically disadvantaged students” in the district has nearly doubled from 26 percent to 48 percent.

That’s why events like the HUGSS Drive are so important for volunteers like Anne Gauthier, who has helped at the event for the past 14 years. Gauthier knows firsthand just how much it helps the community.  

“It grows, every year it has grown. I think we served 3,000 children in the early years and now it’s closed to 6,000,” Gauthier said.

School supplies went quickly Wednesday, and coats ran out first.

Last year, families from more than 1,500 households walked through the lines; event volunteers had to turn people away after every item was gone.

This year that number jumped to more than 1,600 households and counting, and no one was turned away.

“We want to see kids ready for school, we want to see them prepared, we want to see them going to school confident so they do well and excel in the school year,” said Grace O’Neal with Lutheran Social Services. “This is an event that is going to really well equip them for that.”

After Wednesday’s event, organizers will have a wrap-up meeting and tally the final numbers of how many households and children were served before getting to planning for next year’s event.