MANATEE — With the start of school looming Aug. 23 in Manatee County, several organizations are stepping up to help hard-pressed families with school supplies.
Two events are planned this weekend, and a local pastor begins his fourth day today 40 feet above the ground outside a fast-food restaurant trying to collect 1,000 backpacks.
Charles Young, of Bayside Community Church, has been in a cherry picker from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. since Monday at the Chick-fil-A at Creekwood, near the northwest corner of Interstate 75 and State Road 70.
Young, wearing a harness to keep him strapped securely in his bucket, said Wednesday that he’s “worn out, hot and tired,” but is committed to continuing his high-flying quest until he has 1,000 backpacks.
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On Wednesday afternoon, he was about halfway there with 500 backpacks collected. Those backpacks will go to disadvantaged children in Palmetto’s Oakridge Apartments, and to students who attend Oneco Elementary School and to Pace Center for Girls.
Things were a little cooler Wednesday a few miles away at Journey Church, 5017 37th St. E., Bradenton, which is offering a free “Back to School Bash” from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday for pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students. A parent must accompany children 13 and younger.
Celeste Hutson, who serves as children’s pastor with her husband Sean, said youth pastor Chris Wright has conducted a smaller event in the past for the congregation.
But with the lingering economic downturn, church members decided to broaden the bash into a community event.
“This church has always been very geared to the community,” Celeste Hutson said, adding that members wanted to offer something in a “practical way.”
Journey has already stockpiled backpacks filled with school supplies that will be given to the first 150 school-aged children. Also planned are free immunizations, a miniwater park with games and giveaways and a rock climbing wall, as well as free doughnuts, water, popcorn and cotton candy.
“We know many families can’t afford to buy things in a tough economy,” she said.
The event will be held on a five-acre grassy field behind the church.
The toughest part so far has just been getting the word out, Hutson said.
Also planned this weekend is one of the oldest back-to-school efforts, the Mary Bradley Weeks Educational Project Inc., with its ninth annual Fall Semester School Supply Giveaway for children in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
The event is set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Newtown Estate Gymnasium, 2800 Newtown Blvd., Sarasota. Children will receive a backpack and the school supplies recommended by the Manatee and Sarasota school districts.
Also planned is the seventh-annual Back to School Resource and Wellness Rally from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 14 at the East Bradenton Center Just for Girls, 1011 21st St. E., Bradenton.
The free event is sponsored by Redeemed Christian Center, Just for Girls, Bradenton Housing Authority and Bradenton CCRA.
Free backpacks filled with school supplies will be given to school-age children who attend with a parent.
Food, games, physicals, immunizations and screenings also will be free to residents. For more information, call (941) 238-7235 or visit www.redeemed christiancenter.net.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.