MOUNT VERNON — Families waited in a long line Friday night at Riverside Park to receive one of more than 800 backpacks stuffed with school supplies ranging from colored pencils, folders and even Kleenex.
Pat Robbinson of Mount Vernon came with her two grandchildren. “This is truly great,” she said, commenting on the event and all those who contributed to its success.
The giveaway was organized by the Vineyard Church of Knox County with assistance from other churches and their members. Community sponsorship was provided by Ariel Corporation, First-Knox National Bank, Kiwanis Club, Interchurch Social Services, Ohio Rental and Walmart.
“We have many different churches involved, who gave supplies, food, and provided hands-on help,” said Angel Manners, event co-coordinator. “We have so many volunteers; they’re such a huge blessing.”
Volunteers helped with distributing and preparing the food giving bookbags, offering prayer, and in every aspect of the event.
“It’s just an exciting time to have so many people come together, it really builds a bonding within the community,” said Manners. “Everyone is so thankful and helpful, it’s just a great time.”
The event is a yearlong labor of love with lots of preparation and lots of prayer.
“At the Vineyard, we are always looking at how we can meet people’s needs and help our community,” she said. “Being a part of this for several years you forget about all the work and all the preparation involved when you’re here and see all the smiles and the appreciation.”
This year, Manners said, they targeted elementary grades, finding it difficult in previous years to get supplies necessary for high school grades. Interchurch Social Services is responsible for providing vouchers to assist older students with school supply needs.
The backpacks included school essentials like markers, colored pencils, crayons, pencils, pens, notebooks, filler paper, scissors and glue as well as extra items such as pencil boxes, pencil holders, tissues, disinfecting wipes and Band-Aids.
“We get a recommended list of supplies from schools and we try to get those items,” said Manners.
In addition to backpacks, haircuts were offered as well as freshly grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.
Chase Briese, 3, Fredericktown, sat quietly in the chair as he received his first major hair cut by hairstylist Erin Waters of Head to Toe Salon.
“He’s always had his hair trimmed but no major cuts until now,” said Rachel Harden, Chase’s mother.
Chase will be attending preschool this year in Fredericktown. “He’s really excited about riding the school bus, that’s his big thing,” said Harden.
Searching through an array of reading books, children freely picked from their favorites to add to their collections. Bibles were also given away by Gideon Families.
Already beaming from receiving a new backpack, children found plenty of entertainment including Sophia’s Petting Zoo, a bounce house and a dunk tank.
Apart from playing games, youths of all ages could have art painted on their face, as they listen to the gospel tunes of Kentrell Skeens, aka “T.Skeens,” of Big I Ministries, and Tim Parsons of Hells Most Wanted Records, a Christian hip-hop performer and rapper.
Tammy Smith, a volunteer at the sign-up booth, said a lot of people have signed up for the drawing that included bicycles for the kids and a breadmaker or a chandelier for the grown-ups.
“I’ve come every year. This is a really big help for a lot of people,” said Smith, who grabbed three bookbags for her daughters. “I think this is really something special and wonderful they do for the community — especially during these hard times.”
“I think this is great and it covers a lot of the supplies needed,” said Amber Bush, who came with her two daughters. “And the long line moved faster than I thought.”
Both daughters, Grayce and Annmarie Bowles, were thrilled about their new bookbags and looked forward to taking them to school.
“I can’t wait to see my friends,” said Annmarie.
“I’m excited about going to school,” said Grayce.