Jacksonville’s first responders have teamed up with a local church in an effort to ensure every child has what they need to go back to school.
The Back to School Bash is an effort by members of First Christian Church and the Jacksonville Fire Department to collect items to give to needy children for the start of the school year.
Jessica Padilla with First Christian says the project is still fairly new but has grown substantially since its inception.
“We started two years ago with kind of just a backpack giveaway on the square and then last year we grew into all supplies and we even branched out a little into shoes, and it went over so well. This year we wanted to branch out even further so we are doing things like backpacks, school supplies, shoes, socks, health needs like toothbrushes, shampoo, body wash, and anything that a kid might need to have a successful year.”
The Jacksonville Fire Department got involved two years ago by providing drop-off points for donations of new socks, and the Jacksonville Police Department serves as a drop-off point for new backpacks.
Jacksonville Firefighter Patrick Longmeyer says the department is more than happy to help give back to the community. “This is the second year that we have partnered with First Christian as a collection point for the back-to-school program. It’s just a good benefit for the community and we try to always give back wherever we can.
We’ve got a collection point at our substation on West Lafayette and also at our main station at the municipal building uptown. There are boxes out in front of both stations. People can just drop the items in the boxes, or if they want to come in and say hi we certainly appreciate that too.”
Items collected for the Back to School Bash will be given away at the annual Be Aware Wellness Fair on the Central Park Plaza in downtown Jacksonville.
Alaina Rueter with First Christian Church says the supplies and the health fair are free to attend and any school-age child who otherwise won’t be able to start off the school year with everything they need can come.
“It will be for kids just in need. They can just come on up and they can walk through the health fair and get all the information and then they can stop by. It will all be organized by grade level too, so we can have grade-specific supplies for them.”
Rueter says that even though both the fire and police departments are set up as specific drop-off locations, any school and personal supplies can be dropped off at each location, which also includes First Christian Church located at 2106 South Main Street in South Jacksonville.
The Be Aware Wellness Fair will be held downtown on Saturday, August 6th from 9 to 11 am. There is no cost to the public to attend the wellness fair.