Deb Twigg often refers to the story "Stone Soup" when talking about the Valley's community spirit.

It's an ages-old tale of a group of travelers who stop at a village and begin to prepare the concoction, beginning with only a stone in a pot of boiling water. Each villager that comes by adds an additional agreement to the mix. Finally, a pot of delicious, filling soup is produced, with everyone able to reap the benefits.

A back-to-school backpack giveaway held Friday for Waverly district students by the Susquehanna River Archaeological Center and the Red Door Café and Thrift Store brought the story up once more. Twigg, the SRAC's executive director, said the event snowballed from a school supplies giveaway to a full-fledged community celebration. Local volunteers, businesses and organizations stepped in to make the free event special for the crowd of children proudly toting their new bags full of pencils, paper, folders, crayons and other essential supplies.

"It was all of us doing it together that made it special," Twigg said. "It was a really great day."

Twigg said volunteers handed out nearly 300 backpacks Friday. The Tioga County Open Door Mission, which operates the Red Door, received a $2,500 grant from the Floyd Hooker Foundation toward the purchase of backpacks, said Mary Perry Rogers, director of the Open Door Mission. The Church of the Nazarene provided additional backpacks, and local donations helped to fill the bags with supplies.

The Waverly Methodist Church collected donations of supplies throughout the summer. A $300 donation from the Elderwood residents' council went toward purchasing additional supplies children could win in carnival-style games, Twigg said. Other donations included $100 from Chemite and Tioga Tae Kwon Do, $50 from Shadowbox Treasures and $25 from Walmart.

Rogers said the Open Door Mission, open to all Tioga County residents, has run a backpack giveaway in Owego for about 15 years. Officials decided to bring the program to the Waverly location to make the mission's services more accessible for those in the area, she said.

The American Legion donated a dunking booth, Dean-O the Clown made balloon animals and free snow cones and face painting were offered on Park Avenue between the two buildings.

The event also featured informational tables set up by several local organizations, including the Waverly Free Library, where children could sign up for library cards, and Guthrie's endocrinology team, which provided information on childhood obesity.

Tioga County sheriff's deputies provided photo identification cards and fingerprinted children, and ProCare Physical put on an anti-bullying class in the SRAC's lecture hall.

Twigg said she would like to make the giveaway an annual event, making it "bigger and better" each year. "Everyone was amazed with the turnout," she said.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: