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Back-to-school bash highlights need in the community

BY BRITTNEE NAVE
STAR CORRESPONDENT
This year’s back-to-school bash Saturday at Harmony Free Will Baptist Church was unlike any other.
The event, which usually serves as a celebration of sorts, filled with activities, festivities, and snacks, was changed to a drive-thru this year.
This, however, was not the only difference from past years. According to Brandon Young, the church’s pastor, there was also a dramatic increase in those in need. 
“We had 1,200 backpacks at the six locations – five schools and the church,” he described. “Within 45 minutes we had given out all those backpacks.”
Young explained that the event was scheduled from 10 a.m. until noon, but all backpacks were gone by 10:45 a.m.
“We still had lines wrapped around the buildings,” he said. “We took down names and phone numbers and asked how many backpacks were needed. I assured those families they would get those backpacks.”
True to his word, Young contacted the supplier and asked for an additional 1,020 backpacks. This would cost $11,000.
 “We had enough to pay for that first round, but we didn’t have anything else in the account,” he said. 
Young explained the predicament to the supplier who agreed to let Young pay on the balance for as long as was needed and assured the additional backpacks by Thursday.
Those families who are still in need will be contacted and will receive backpacks. 
To aid in paying back the balance, various donations have been made from individuals in the community, churches, and even Redimart, which was the biggest donor at $5,600. 
While most has been raised to cover the cost, Young said additional donations are welcome as they will be used to continue providing resources to children in need. 
In comparison to previous years, Young said there has been an increase, some of which he relates to COVID costing some their jobs and people being too fearful to purchase materials.
Previous years to host the event ranged from $20,000-$25,000, with snacks and inflatables included in the price. This year, without snacks and inflatables, the cost is still around $23,000 due to the growing need for school supplies. 
Despite a bit of sadness over the changed event this year to the drive-thru, Young said children and parents alike remained beyond appreciative.
“I had some in tears thanking me for what we were doing,” he said. 
Those wanting to donate can do so by donating online at the church’s website at https://harmonychurch.org/, or by contacting Khristina Cardwell, ministry assistant at the church, at 423-297-4504 Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.