While the Back to School Bash tonight at Smiths Station Baptist Church will help meet some needs, pastor David Kees says it won't be enough.
"We wish we could do more," he said.
At the bash, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EDT, the Alabama church will be giving out 500 backpacks to students on a first-come, first-served basis. Each bag will contain school items, including markers, notebooks, paper and tissues. There will also be a New Testament Bible.
"We see this not only as a big opportunity to meet physical needs, but spiritual needs, as well, by showing the community the true love of Jesus Christ," Kees said.
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Something special the church will be offering to students is a free haircut. "Some children have never had their hair cut by a professional," Kees said. "We have 10 stylists who are volunteering their time."
Piggly Wiggly has donated some hamburgers and hot dogs that will be cooked by church deacons.
There will be inflatables for play. Sweet treats such as cotton candy and snow cones will be in abundance. The air will be filled with music.
This is the third time the church has held the bash. "We only had 300 backpacks the first time and it was clear we did not have enough," Kees said. "Gosh, we have had some long lines."
Associate Pastor Jeff Garrett said more than 1,000 people will likely attend.
Some of the activities will be in the church gymnasium and the rest outside. Kees said the church has plenty of space and rain will not affect the event.
The pastor said the idea for the bash came from young church leaders who saw the great need in the community and felt a "huge burden."
Kees said the church budgeted $10,000 for this year's bash and some special offerings were made. "It is a lot for one big night to reach the community," he said.
The church purchased the backpacks and materials rather than depending on donations. "We checked with the Lee County School System to see what was needed," Kees said.
One way the church helps families throughout the year is with its clothing bank. "This is a very busy time for that," Garrett said.
Kees said the need in the area is great because the economy still is not strong and families can have trouble meeting needs. The need is not only great in Alabama, but also throughout the Chattahoochee Valley.
United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley is currently conducting a "Stuff the Bus" campaign, collecting school supplies to be distributed in Columbus, Phenix City and Russell County, The Columbus Baptist Association give book bags to its members to distribute. On July 18, Fourth Street Missionary Baptist Church in Columbus had a back-to-school giveaway.
"I am glad to see so many step up to the plate and help," Kees said. "It is something which has to be done."