An estimated 1,000 backpacks, stuffed with school supplies, were donated to children and their families at the 18th annual School Store at College Hills Church of Christ.
Students from 10 city and county schools, ranging from pre-kindergarten through high school preparing for their return to school next week, received the backpacks.
Red, blue and green backpacks filled the stage steps, broken up only by the faces of Batman, the Jonas Brothers and SpongeBob across themed varieties. Hundreds of people lined up throughout the church and around the building.
“Serving others is really what it’s about,” said Kevin Owen, preaching minister at College Hills Church of Christ. Owen is among 280 volunteers who helped to collect and hand out supplies in hopes of easing the stress of school for low-income families.
According to the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, in 2010 the poverty rate for Wilson County was 10 percent, but the effects are still felt by many residents.
“It seems like it’s been a hard year for a lot of people so everybody’s grateful,” Felecia Wharton said as she helped her grandchildren, Ty and Damen Drake, gather supplies.
Ty, a third-grader picked out a blue backpack, while Damen, a first-grader, carried a red backpack in his hand.
Wharton and more than 400 other families passed through a room full of tables stacked with school supplies. Bottles of Elmer’s Glue, stacks of three-ring binders, wide-ruled paper and a student’s most valuable tool: No. 2 pencils. Students walked to tables assigned to specific grades and by the end of the line they had the basic supplies to fit the needs of every student.
“It’s a big help for me,” said Marilyn Freeman, a single mother sitting with her son Jamonnas Moore, an eighth-grader, and daughter Lor Nazha Freeman, a seventh-grader. Freeman, No. 161 of the families in line, waited from 6:30 a.m. until the doors opened at 8 a.m.
The coordinators of the event, Annabelle and Jim Robinson, are both retired educators who understand the importance of the School Store from the perspectives of parents, teachers and most importantly students.
“We have a lot of happy faces,” said Annabelle Robinson. “We are hoping to make the kids feel good about themselves and good about school.”
The line continued and crowded the doorways of three rooms where students sorted through donated blue jeans, khakis and shirts, comparing sizes and styles as they picked out their favorites.
Volunteers also offered other services, including prayer tables, face painting and sign language and Spanish interpreters to help their friends and neighbors to prepare for school without having to worry about the basics.