About 1,100 local children scored new school supplies Saturday at the ninth annual Kits 4 Kids program.
The event, sponsored by the Columbus Baptist Association, provided free bookbags filled with basic supplies to young attendees at Benning Drive's Frank D. Chester Recreation Center. More than 1,500 children and their families braved the hot weather for the event, which also featured games, food, live music, play areas, free haircuts and health screenings.
For Samantha Garrett, the free supplies are a great help. The 31-year-old mother said the school supply lists for her 7-year-old son, James Brown, can sometimes get quite lengthy.
"Sometimes, it’s a front page and half of a back page," said Garrett, who watched as James played inside an inflatable play house. "I’m like, ‘How do you use all this?'"
Since February, volunteers with Mission Columbus Central, a ministry of the Columbus Baptist Association, have collected and stuffed about 2,200 backpacks, each filled with school supplies appropriate for different grade levels. This year, organizers also offered about 300 bookbags for pre-kindergarteners.
Roni Ragan, Columbus Baptist Association ministry assistant, said each pack was probably valued at about $20 to $30 each - a price families won’t have to pay during the tough economy.
"They wouldn’t be here in the hot sun if they didn’t need it," Ragan said.
Besides getting free supplies, some young attendees said they enjoyed the attractions and activities - from miniature golf to inflatable slides.
For 11-year-old Latachane Wright, her favorite was "when they were talking about God," referring to gospel sessions the association held inside the center.
Nine-year-old Chris Ford, a Muscogee Elementary School student, said he was there "to play."
"We're enjoying ourselves," said mother Barbara Ford, 31.
Donations for Kits 4 Kids came from the community and 52 Baptist churches in the Columbus area. More than 300 volunteers helped put the event together.