Annual backpack give-a-way connects with community

The 8th Annual Rockin’ Back to School community event, sponsored by Riverside Park United Methodist Church, may not have given out quite as many backpacks as they have in the past, but volunteers still considered it to be a successful outreach.

“Even though we only gave away 300 of the 500 backpacks we prepared, it gave us time to actually talk to the individuals and make a  connection,” said Jane Riechmann, event organizer. “People said it was a blessing. It’s so much more than just giving away backpacks that makes the event special.”

Riechmann noted they had more preschool and high school children show up than was planned for, but was able to use some of the elementary and middle school backpacks to fill in the gaps. She said several other organizations held backpack giveaways the same day, which may have affected attendance, but the church is planning to hold next year’s event again on the first Saturday in August.

The Aug. 5 event, held at Riverside Park, included two bounce houses, free school physical exams by St. Vincent’s Mobile Medical unit, haircuts, ID kits, and library information. The Boy Scouts had a booth at the annual event, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department had a unit at the site, and Riverside Park UMC’s pastor, Rev. Emily Knight, set up a prayer board to encourage children to share their needs and to pray for their schools.

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