ANDERSON — Elijah Reeves, 5, loves football, so it wasn’t a shocker to his mother when he announced his favorite game at the Mounds Baptist Church Back to School Festival Sunday was a football toss.
And, excited to start kindergarten, it was a good day for Elijah to grab some free supplies for his first day of class.
With four kids, his mother Amanda Boyer said the festival, held at Shadyside Park every year, is a huge financial help, “especially with the older they (the kids) get.”
Volunteers, with the help of sponsors like Target and Unified Group Services, gathered items from each Anderson Community School Corp. school website’s list to get supplies for the students.
Boyer said the supplies she’s gathered from the festival in the past has lasted her kids until the second semester. There’s a big need in Anderson for events like it, she said, because “there’s not a lot of jobs and not a lot for the kids to do.”
“It’s been a tough economy, people are struggling, the town has gone through a lot,” Mounds Baptist Church Pastor Steve Wilkinson said. “The thought was, ‘how can we best help the community.’”
The event began with Tenth Street Elementary and later extended to all Anderson Community Schools’ students.
Superintendent Felix Chow said about 80 percent of ACS’ population is on free or reduced lunch. That’s roughly 5,500 students.
“Just based off those big statistics ... in my mind, it’s (the festival) a huge help to those families getting ready for school,” he said.
He added that the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) is working on becoming a central location for families in need to pick up donated items like hand-me-down uniforms through the school year. Parents can also go to principals to seek help.
Lori German brought out her nieces, Brooklynn, 6, and Morgan, 5, Spearman, who were having “a blast” and really liked the free ice cream.
“This is awesome,” German said. “It’s nice for the kids to have fun. Plus they can come out and earn their own school supplies.”
Children played carnival-like games to earn tickets used to redeem supplies. All at no cost to the families.
Wilkinson said they saw around 6,000 kids last year and even more this year.
Games were increased by about a third, he said, and the lines were still the same length from last year, an indicator of how many were in attendance though no exact numbers were available yet.
Businesses were also on hand with booths, a group of local graduates volunteered to come out and play jazz and the Anderson Police Department put on a K-9 show.
Wilkinson was pleased to see more booths focusing on education with information about GEDs and Anderson’s new preschool location.
He said there were around 250 volunteers this year, notably from Madison Park Church of God and Anderson Community Schools.
Wilkinson said, “The kids are going to have what they need on day one.”
Crystal Trent came out with her three kids for the first time and said the supplies will help cut her costs by nearly half.
“It (school supplies) gets really expensive, so this helps,” she said.
Her daughter, Faith, 11, said she’s coming back if they hold the event again next year.
In addition to the supplies given to families, any money raised Sunday will go toward ACS’ positive behavior program aimed at reducing discipline problems in the school system.
Chow said the event raised about $2,000 for the program last year.
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