A line of parents and children stretched from the Columbus Civic Center to past the ice rink Saturday for the annual Back to School Jam.
“We hope the Tri-City area feels that we want to meet the needs for them,” said Lauren Chambers, a marketing manager for sponsor Amerigroup RealSolutions in Healthcare. “ We want to make it a one-stop shop to get everything they need for school.”
The event gave every child a chance to visit a group of community providers with information about immunizations , free health screenings and other services before entering the arena to pick up a free book bag. Chambers said there was also information about after school programs, Girls Inc., Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the ability to register for school.
Waiting in line was Jamel Fields who brought a group of youth from the mentoring program at St. Marys Road United Methodist Church. The program serves youths 8 to 15 years old.
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“We mentor about Christian fellowship, social interaction, cultural diversity and appreciation of life,” Fields said. “We try to hit four or five topics every time we meet with them. My goal is to try to show them something they wouldn’t normally see, show as many new experiences as possible.”
Melvin Blackwell, a retired Muscogee County School District’s chief student services officer, was among the volunteers with the group. “The idea is to try and make a difference,” he said.
Inside the Civic Center, “Flossy the Clown” made smiling easier with objects made from balloons . “When the children come in , I’m going to give them a balloon, a hat, puppy dog or a sword,” Lee Barreras said.
Other sponsors for the event included Reach 4 Your Dreams, Muscogee County School District, Greater Beallwood Baptist Church, Fourth Street Missionary Baptist Church, Columbus Parks and Recreation, Lambda Iota Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. and Forrest B. Johnson & Associates.
Last year the program served 3,000 people, Chambers said. “We hope we can reach that number of people, if not more. We are excited.”