Despite the soggy weather, the third annual Back To School Giveaway event at Ludlam Avenue Park in Riverside drew hundreds of people Saturday morning.
“Our event has grown year after year and it’s great we can serve the community in such a positive way,” said Flanders Riverside Northampton Community Association president Ron Fisher.
A team effort by all accounts, the event — which had a cost of about $2,800 including school supplies and food — was sponsored by FRNCA, Riverside Rediscovered, Truth Community Church, Southampton Youth Bureau, Women of the Moose, ASCEND Homes and Community Foundation and Children’s Museum of the East End.
Giveaways included 340 backpacks, 340 pocket folders, 340 notebooks, 340 zipper pockets and pencils and 150 boxes of crayons and stapler kits. A total of 280 back to school kits were given away, said organizers. The remaining “filled backpacks” will be given away to Ladies of the Moose, The Butterfly Effect Project and Southampton Youth Bureau for their own back to school events.
In addition to the school supplies and community outreach, attendees also enjoyed free lunch provided by Truth Community Church, as well as activities for the children such as face-painting and bracelet-making sponsored by the Southampton Youth Bureau.
“The community looks forward to this event and start asking about it in June,” Riverside Rediscovered community liaison Angela Huneault said. “We already have several families that want to volunteer and help us next year.”
Deysi Escobar, a resident of Riverhead who attended with her children Camila and Matias, agrees.
“Every year we are struggling when it’s time to go back to school,” she said. “I thought this year my kids would not be able to have new backpacks, but thanks to this event, now they have one. I feel this will make them go happier to school and more motivated.”
Members of the organizing committee said that it took months of preparation. Huneault said that when she found out OfficeMax was closing its store in Tanger last year, “she went week after week” to check prices on school supplies until she was certain she was buying items at the lowest price. She said she ended up buying three full shopping carts worth of school supplies.
“We want to know that every child in this area is going to start off successfully,” she said. “We want to take the burden from the family so they have one less thing to worry about. We have to support each other, that’s the only way. ”
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Maria Piedrabuena