Nearly 2,000 backpacks will be given away to Bladen County students, and more could be on the way, the result of the efforts of several Bladen County organizations aiming to help parents with the costs of the start of the school year.
The Back 2 School Blast is Aug. 18 at the Elizabethtown farmers market. Organized by several Methodist churches in the Mother County, the event began as a free haircut opportunity and quickly morphed into not only haircuts, but trimming the all-around costs of heading back to school.
“I just had a vision of bringing community churches together, bringing all the people we can together in one place to do something good, fun and helpful,” said the Rev. Brock Meyer.
In addition to the free haircuts, students can pick up free backpacks filled with school supplies such as pencils, crayons, paper, notebooks, scissors and rulers. Meyer said the group plans to give away 500 backpacks. While the supplies were based directly on Bladen County Schools’ supply lists from the central office, none of the backpacks are clear, a requirement for the high schools. Regardless, Meyer said no one who wants a backpack will be turned away.
Nurses will be on site to offer free health screenings, and a no-cost uniform exchange will take place. A free hot dog lunch will top things off.
“We want to make this an annual thing, and I’d love to see it give birth to other ministries and to see other churches get involved to create more unity,” Meyers said.
The Back 2 School Blast will take place from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Cape Fear Farmer’s Market in Elizabethtown.
A second backpack giveaway will be held Aug. 19 in front of San Jose in Elizabethtown. With the help of Smithfield Foods, Foundation Bible Church will be giving away 1,100 backpacks stuffed with school supplies.
“We just got our delivery in, and we’ve been working hard to get things organized,” said Foundation Bible Church pastor Jason Williams. “I feel confident we’ll run out. I wish we could provide for everybody, but we’ll give out the 1,100 we have and try to minister to as many people as we can.”
Backpacks are for all grades, but Williams said a limited number are the mesh type required for high school. Students must be present to receive a backpack.
After picking up a backpack, children — and their caregivers — can enjoy bounce houses, sno cones and popcorn.
For Williams and Meyer, helping others out is just following the example set by Christ.
“One of our core virtues is to be community generous,” Williams explained, “and that’s built on the example of Christ ministering to masses of people.”
Families First, Inc. is also trying to help families in need as school begins. Needed are book bags, lunch boxes, crayons, highlighters, tab dividers, scissors, pencil pouches/boxes, 1-inch and 3-inch ring binders, index cards, marbled composition books, three-subject composition books, glue sticks, colored pencils, graph paper, pencil top erasers, wide-ruled notebook paper, and red and blue pens.
Families First wants to help with school uniforms as well and will accept gently used uniforms. Clothes may be brought to 103 E. Broad St. in Elizabethtown between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties’ Guardian ad Litem program will collecting supplies as well, to be given to local schools. Donations may be dropped off at locations throughout the county.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.