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Photo by Frank Prager
Back To School Bash coordinator Amy Martin with some of the 1,000 school backpacks given away on July 29.
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Photo by Frank Prager
Hundreds of excited students and parents were already in line when the event began at 10 a.m.
HARTFORD | Since 2010, the Hartford Assembly Of God Church has organized a Back To School Bash for students in the area.
This year, the annual event was held July 29 at Hartford Park and has grown into one of the largest school supply benefits in the Riverbend area.
Backpacks containing school supplies are given free of charge to students from preschool age through high school from over 18 area municipalities. Recipients come from communities as close as Hartford and Alton to as far away as Carlinville and Madison.
Event organizer Amy Martin says the church recognized a need and started that first year with 125 backpacks.
“We scheduled the event for four hours and gave away the backpacks in ten minutes,” she says.
A giveaway of 250 backpacks the second year went nearly as quickly. The church handed out 450 backpacks the third year and the event has continued to grow in the years since. This year, a total of 1,000 backpacks with supplies were provided to the community.
Martin explains how the event has expanded over the years to include activities such as face painting and a climbing wall for the students.
“There is so much need in the community,” Martin says. “I have had parents come to me in tears thanking me for this service.”
In addition, free dental and vision screenings were provided by Crown Vision and Miles Of Smiles. Haircuts were also offered at no charge for those attending by local stylists.
Martin says one high school student told her after his parents provided for his younger siblings, there was seldom money for his supplies and he would have to attend school without them if it were not for this event.
The dedicated team works year round to organize and coordinate the event. On the day of the actual event, a total of 75 volunteers are required to accommodate the thousands of parents and students who come to the park.
The event was scheduled from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., and by 10, there were already hundreds of people at the park. Good weather and effective organization kept lines moving and activities available for everyone attending.
Martin says over 30 local businesses contribute money and items in order to make the event a success. She notes in particular that Phillips 66 of Hartford donates all of the backpacks and that GRP Mechanical of Bethalto is also a major contributor.
For more information, call (618) 254-9467 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.