Gear up: Church school supply giveaway assists local families

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, August 9, 2017
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WELCOME – Volunteers greet guests at Decatur Church of Christ Sunday evening during Gear Up, a school supply giveaway. A line for the 5 p.m. event started forming about noon. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

BaiLee sat still just long enough Sunday evening to get her face painted like a tiger.

But after the last brushstroke, the third-grader jumped up, ready to visit the next station at Gear Up, the annual school supply giveaway at Decatur Church of Christ.

Her mom, LaToya Boston of Chico, trailed behind her with armloads of school supplies, clothes and other necessities to start the school year.

“This is such a blessing, to see a church give back to the community like this,” Boston said, beaming. “We’re just dealing with some horrible things this year, so this is such a huge blessing for us.”

New Style

NEW STYLE – Volunteer Abby Ball cuts Alexander Watrous’ hair for a fresh, back-to-school look. Watrous will be in second grade. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

BaiLee and her mom were among the 787 guests at this year’s event. Children in kindergarten through sixth grade received a backpack with school supplies, clothes, haircuts, books and other services.

Church member Marcy Edwards, one of the event organizer’s, said Gear Up first started as an alternative to Vacation Bible School in 2009.

“We’d done VBS for so many years and welcomed the community, but this was a different way to help,” she said. “We wanted to do something more for them.”

She said the first few years the church gave away drawstring bags with school supplies, but over the years the event has evolved and grown, allowing the church to give away actual backpacks, as well as other items.

Work of Art

WORK OF ART – Reyna Janus gives her butterfly a thumbs up after leaving the face painting station. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Volunteer Emily Hoffman said it’s an important endeavor.

“It’s connecting with the community on a no-questions-asked basis, and I like that,” she said. “It’s us saying, ‘we’re here for you, and we’re not asking anything of you.'”

She said the number of people who show up indicate the importance of the program.

“It’s good for all of us,” she said. “Any event that has people come together and communicate their needs to each other is worthwhile.”

Joanna Ortiz of Decatur brought her sons, Aiden, 4, and Bryan, 2.

“This helps a lot,” she said.

If the Shoe Fits

IF THE SHOE FITS – Volunteer Shane Tribe fits Amarie Salas with a new pair of shoes. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Edwards said they had to make a few last minute changes this year due to oncoming storms, but they had devised a plan for inclement weather and simply put it into place.

“We usually open at 5 but because we knew there was hail and bad weather on the way we opened at 4:30,” she said. “We ended up canceling all the outdoor activities and having to-go boxes ready (for the barbecue meal).”

Church member Vicki Atkins said she’s volunteered in various positions over the years, but this year she lined up kids for haircuts. She enjoys the event because it provides the opportunity for her to give back.

“I’m giving back because I’ve been so blessed,” she said. “It’s a good way to show Christ to the community.”

All Boy

ALL BOY – First grader J.B. Janas peers through his Batman-themed face paint. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Edwards agreed church members, as well as guests, benefit from the event.

“It’s great to see so many people want to be involved in something,” she said. “There’s not any other organized thing we do that we have 250 volunteers want to come be a part of it.

“Helping everyone get ready for school, it’s just a really cool thing.”

Ready for School

READY FOR SCHOOL – Josella Andelayo holds a balloon animal after receiving her backpack. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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