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Local charities come together to provide school supplies to those in need

Local charities come together to provide school supplies to those in need

Local charities come together to provide school supplies to those in need
August 16
17:14 2018

Rain poured down in spurts outside UNT’s Gateway Center, only letting up to a drizzle for enough time to allow more visitors inside. Once inside the center, hundreds of people at any one time moved up and down long corridors to access the rooms that sprout off of it, where they receive a variety of school supplies and free services to help children in the new school year.

The event is Denton’s first annual Back to School Fair, hosted by several of the city’s charity organizations, along with the help of both the city and the police department.

“In just Denton ISD alone, about 42-44 percent of students are economically disadvantaged — that is about 11,000 children who are economically disadvantaged,” said Ernestina Lopez, outreach and development specialist at Interfaith Ministries and an organizer of the event. “So, why not give that lifting hand to parents and help those who are struggling and who can’t afford the quality of equipment and supplies for these students that are about to start school. We figured [the need] is increasing more and more nowadays, and we want to help serve as many children as we can.”

The back-to-school event sought to provide school supplies and other much-needed services to those in Denton who had the most need. Organizers of the event decided to come together to take the numerous back-to-school events available to Denton locals and combine them into one large event, which provides a wider variety of services than individual, smaller events.

Though the coalition of organizations has been throwing around ideas for a joint back-to-school event for about a year, it wasn’t until March that the real momentum and planning for what would become started.

“[This process] has helped us understand other agency’s missions and helped us understand that they are here to support our community, and that is amazing,” Lopez said. “We got to know each other very well, and we have become friends now. It has become like a family here, and we all learn from each other.”

Father and son learn qualifications at a medical services information table at Denton’s first annual Back to School Fair. This event was hosted by numerous charity organizations. Dillon Montes

While some visitors said they thought the event was similar to what each organization put up in the past — just a simple giving away of school supplies and other related products — what wasn’t expected was just how far the collaboration by the groups would go towards providing additional services. In addition to school supplies, the event had free haircuts, eye exams and hearing exams available to the children who showed up. These stations helped solve problems that the parents of these children didn’t know they had before attending.

The groups and organizations that came out to help these people in need were as diverse as the people that they came to help. While there were organizations present that focused more on initiatives, such as Health Services if North Texas, there were other groups attending that were not typical of this sort of event, like JCPenny, which helped provide the personnel for free haircuts.

“This is such a good event — I wasn’t expecting to come up here and see all the things that it had,” said Nhaalah Hogg, a mother who had heard about the event from her aunt. “We were able to learn about a lot of the resources that they have out here as far as Medicaid, financial [aid] and food pantries — just a lot of stuff that you didn’t know about. I hope they do this next year, I want to be one of the first [people] to sign up.”

The consolidation of the previously separate events into a larger, better-equipped event went over well with many who attended, with most willing to already commit to coming back next year, so long as it is held again as expected.

Social media aided in spreading the word of the event, as those who registered for the event early were quick to share the news online. The event registered more than 3,000 kids prior to the event, but actual attendance was lower than that, though more people showed up without registering.

“We live in Providence Place apartments, and we have different families there that are in need of all of these services, including us,” Jennifer Rivera, a mother of four, said. “I called a couple people and they came up and did the on-site registration. [This] has really helped a lot of families, especially single moms who need help in this way.”

Going forward, the groups involved in this year’s fair said they intend to make it an annual event with the hope for a constant growth. Lopez said she hopes that next year they will be able to increase attendance to roughly 5,000 children and their families, while also providing other services that attendees can enjoy while picking up school supplies.

Featured Image: Volunteers at UNT’s Gateway Center lay out backpacks for guests at the first annual Back to School Fair. The event’s goal was to provide school supplies for local families. Dillon Montes

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Shane Monaco

Shane Monaco

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1 Comment

  1. letty
    letty August 16, 19:11

    WoW… Thumbs up for the successful event. The Organizations are stepping up showing Denton they care for the families and the students future. This event gets bigger every year. Keep up the good job…

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