INTERNATIONAL FALLS (AP) -- Area children who need school supplies won't be able to rely on the Caring Tree this year.
The Caring Tree has been decorated each year since 1999 with lists of the back-to-school items needed by Koochiching County children.
But a slow economy and state budget cutbacks have caused the project's sponsors, KOOTASCA Community Action and the International Mall, to cancel the Caring Tree this year.
A lack of donations isn't the problem, said Julie Schumacher, KOOTASCA director of planning and development. The two sponsors simply lack the funds to coordinate the project this year, she said.
"Our agency just received a 53 percent cut to our state block grant, and that grant supports projects like this," Schumacher said. "The donations we receive from people go to the kids, but the mall and KOOTASCA lack the money to coordinate the program."
About 120 children used the program last year.
"Basically, the families this affects are the families struggling to make ends meet who don't have a lot of extra money and may not be able to afford the new school clothes and shoes and supplies," Schumacher said.
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