“When you can afford a little, you got a whole lot,” Mary Barber Lopez observed Friday at Good Samaritan Ministries’ Back to School party at Cardinal Park.
As she watched backpacks and school supplies go out to each of 300 or so local children who otherwise would have gone back to school without them, Barber Lopez was counting her blessings that she was able to cover her grandnieces’ back-to-school needs this year and that the ministry was there to help her sister-in-law’s children.
There was a new outfit of clothing, socks and underwear for about 100 of 300 children at Friday’s party. Two hundred others had already picked up their school clothing and backpacks at the ministry. A second backpack and clothing distribution is planned for 200 more Tuesday. And as of Friday night, 100 of the total 700 children registered for the ministry’s back-to-school assistance had been fitted with new shoes.
All of the gifts came compliments of Good Samaritan supporters, and Barber Lopez wished them the best as they continue gathering donations to equal out the distribution for the 700 registered and 200 more on the ministry’s waiting list.
“I’ll give what I’ve got to give to Good Samaritan,” she said.
Fernando Desousa, a Spanish interpreter for Johnson City Schools and a volunteer for Good Samaritan, said at this point in the drive, new school shoes are the greatest need.
“We have no shoes left,“ he said Friday as he helped the registered families through the distribution line.
In addition to supplies and clothing, area churches and numerous businesses and individual sponsors threw a hamburger and hot dog cookout for the guests at Friday’s party. United Health Care and Tenn-Der Care brought free toys and health information for the children and their families. There were giant inflatable games for the kids.
And afterward, free admission to the ball game for everyone at the party was on the Johnson City Cardinals.
“It’s very surprising that all these people here are caring enough to give this to these kids. It’s amazing what people will do,” said a Johnson City mother with two children in the distribution. “I’m on limited income right now and them doing this for my kids means more to me than anything.”
For any others who wish to help meet the need, a $35 donation to Good Samaritan will provide a backpack, supplies, one new outfit, socks and underwear for one child. Donations of supplies, backpacks and new school clothing may be dropped off at the ministry, at 100 N. Roan St., weekdays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monetary contributions to Good Samaritan Ministries earmarked for “Back to School” may be made online at www.goodsamjc.org or by mail to P.O. Box 2441, Johnson City, TN 37605.
For families in need who have not registered for back-to-school assistance, the Johnson City and Elizabethton housing authorities are helping and Carver Recreation Center in Johnson City is also collecting donated backpacks and supplies.
Coalition for Kids, the after-school program that works in conjunction with Johnson City schools, will have free school supplies and drawstring backpacks available for up to 200 children from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. today at its Back to School Health Fair at the C4K center, 2308 Watauga Road. The health fair is free, open to the public and will include food, giant inflatable attractions and free health screenings to help everyone get a healthy start on the new school year.
The coalition has also received enough school supplies to provide for all 300 city school students served by its program, but remains in need of textbook-worthy backpacks for the children.
Many area churches are also collecting supplies for low-income families with children, including Grace Fellowship Church, 2314 S. Greenwood Drive; Calvary Church, 178 Pickens Bridge Road; and Crossroads Christian Church, 1300 Suncrest Drive in Gray. Donations may be brought to the churches prior to any regularly scheduled service.
More information about how to assist Good Samaritan’s back-to-school drive may be obtained by calling the ministry at 928-1958. More details on the need for backpacks at Coalition for Kids may be obtained by calling 434-2031, by going to the center or online at coalitionforkids.org.