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Miller Holland, 4, of New London, left, goes through the materials inside a backpack presented to her by Karen Hilding, co-chair of the Empower initiative, right, at a preschool screening Wednesday at Green Lake Bible Camp in Spicer. Empower was established to increase childrens' readiness to learn when they enter kindergarten. The backpacks contain scissors, crayons, paint and glue sticks to help children increase fine motor skills and learn basic shapes, letters and colors. A blank notebook also invite...

Initiative offers tools to improve kindergarten readiness

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Some of the 3- and 4-year-olds at New London-Spicer's preschool screening couldn't wait to tear into their new blue backpacks and pull out crayons, paintboxes and books.

It's the reaction that members of the United Way of Kandiyohi County's new Empower initiative were hoping for when they invested this year in more than 700 of the packs -- enough for every pre-kindergarten child in Kandiyohi County.

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