Joanna Sanabia, a volunteer with The Salvation Army, puts supplies in backpacks for kindergarteners at Dallas Family Night Out at host Dallas United Methodist Church. About 500 backpacks were awaiting students to claim them at the event.
As of Tuesday, August 23, 2016
POLK COUNTY — Sorry kids — it’s time.
Your days of carefree summer fun are nearly over as Labor Day approaches.
With the first day of school just around the corner, organizations in Dallas and Falls City were busy helping the eager — or not-so-eager — students get ready to go back to class this fall.
Dallas Family Night Out had more than 500 backpacks filled with school supplies to hand out, as well as free clothing, haircuts and other resources available last Wednesday.
The event, which began in 2012, paired up with the Apple Tree supplies collection and The Salvation Army’s “Tools for Schools” program in an effort to reach even more families this year.
A rush just after the event opened indicated that may have been the case.
Almost 50 service providers and other agencies attended, another sign of growth.
“We just about fell over when we did the count on that,” said coordinator Sheri Beehner.
She said the giveaway fills a need she’s familiar with.
“I grew up poor and my mom couldn’t afford a backpack,” she said. “That’s why I want to do this. Families can come here and not be pressured to spend any money at all.”
While the event was free, that doesn’t mean Beehner and crew didn’t know how to make back to school fun. Live music, a bounce house, an up-close experience with Dallas Fire Department engines and dinner were offered.
On Thursday, students in Falls City were the guests of honor at a similar event, a partnership between The Salvation Army and Monmouth Christian Church.
The Tools for School Program had 185 backpacks ready to give away, more than enough for every child enrolled in the Falls City School District. Halfway through, volunteers were afraid they were running out of supplies, but they were able to pull through.
“We were able to shuffle things around and got everybody a backpack,” said Lacey Carlson, the Salvation Army’s resource development coordinator.
Dinner, clothing and haircuts were available there too.
Incoming seventh-grader Ashton Harding decided to get his back-to-school hair cut in Falls City Thursday. He was very specific about what he wanted.
“I want an inch off the back and the sides,” he said.
“I was asked not to touch the top,” chimed in Duana Robertson, of Hot Rod Hair in Dallas who volunteered for the event.
Ashton, who goes to LaCreole Middle School, had already picked up his backpack by the time he stopped by Robertson’s station and seemed excited to begin school again. He’s ready to see his friends and take part in drama class.
Besides getting his supplies and haircut Thursday, Ashton said he is only changing one thing from his summer routine to get ready for school.
“Going to bed a little bit earlier,” he said.