That is, until Kathy Martin decided that there had to be a more meaningful way to reach out to youngsters in the surrounding community.
“I really just got convicted that we were giving kids all this candy,” said Martin, Higher Ground’s director of children’s ministry. “Most of them can’t afford dentists, and it’s not good for them. ... I had a friend in another ministry that had started giving away school supplies, and their church had been very forthcoming and helpful, and I thought, that’s a great idea.”
Thus was born Higher Ground’s Back-to-School Bash, returning for its fourth year on Sunday. From 2 to 4 p.m., church staff and volunteers will give away backpacks and school supplies, popcorn and slushies, and provide free haircuts and manicures to Kingsport City School students in grades K-5, while supplies last. Children must be present to receive school supplies.
Higher Ground’s Care House Ministry will also have a clothes closet open, and United HealthCare will be on site to offer information about Tennessee’s TENNderCARE program for babies, children, teens and young adults.
“It’s grown every year,” Martin said of the Back-to-School Bash. “We started out having 300 packs of school supplies. Every year we’ve run out. This year we’ve got about 1,200, and we’ve got about 200 backpacks.”
Those backpacks were donated by Higher Ground members, who filled them with school supplies and, in many cases, lots of extra goodies.
“At the first of July, we sort of pitch out to our church that when they leave that day they’re going to find a flyer on their windshield — our children go out and put fliers on the windshields asking people to get a backpack and these school supplies, and have them here by the last Sunday in July. That sort of gets the ball rolling,” Martin said. “Some of our church families go way overboard and put toothbrushes and toothpaste in them, so some of those backpacks have a lot of extra stuff in them.”
The rest of the school supplies to be given out — everything from notebooks, pencils and paper to crayons, scissors and boxes of Kleenex — are paid for through the church’s missions budget.
“For the first time this year, we are also giving out a snack pack,” Martin said. “It’s going to have all kinds of good, healthy snacks. They’ve got little drinks in them, too. Our Care House ministry did that, and we’ve got 1,200 of those, so they’ll at least have snacks for a week.”
Haircuts are provided by students at Legacy School of Hair Design, owned and operated by Higher Ground members Bill Wampler Sr. and Bill Wampler Jr.
“Our church feels like this is a great way that we can reach out to the community. We’re not asking for anything back. We just want to help meet the need,” Martin said. “We really want to share the love of Christ, and we know that you need to meet physical needs before you can ever talk about spiritual needs, so that’s what this is all about.”
For more information, call Martin at 723-3037.