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Published on August 02, 2016

Annual back to school giveaway reaches 500 backpacks

By Tiifanie Reynolds, Florida Times-Union

Riverside Park United Methodist Church will make the beginning of the school a little easier for 500 local families with its annual Rocking Back to School backpack giveaway.

Coordinator Susan Bush said the church will be giving away 500 backpacks at Riverside Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

The event also includes free hair cuts for children by local barber Dana Miller, free photo and thumbprint ID for children and free physicals by St. Vincent’s.

Bush is also bringing the fun with bounce houses and a tour of one of Jacksonville Fire and Rescue’s fire trucks.

Bush said the annual event has been organized by the church for at least eight years as part of its community outreach. This is her second year coordinating it, and at least her sixth year being a part of it.

She said the event has grown every year. Last year the church gave away 375 backpacks, and this year’s donations have increased by 125 backpacks. Backpacks are collected through donations from church members.

She attributes this year’s increase to a local YMCA partnering with the church for a day camp. Many of the children in the day camp aren’t able to get school supplies on their own, and Bush wanted to extend their annual giveaway to those families.

Her goal is to continue to increase the event. For next year, she hopes to partner with more local churches and add a clothing giveaway and food.

“What we’re trying to do is to pull in the whole community,” said Bush. “The doctors in the community, the churches in the community and just make it a bigger and bigger event every year.”

Bush said that the event is on a first come, first served basis. Each child will receive a “passport” to have stamped at every station they go to at the Rocking Back to School backpack giveaway.

For families interested in St. Vincent’s free physicals, Bush encourages them to come early as there is a limited sign-up sheet.

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