VALRICO — As she walked away from an event that provided her two sons with free school supplies, Bernabe Rosario said the payoff was worth much more than the contents of the new backpacks.
The supplies will help her sons focus on their studies and go to school prepared, Rosario said in Spanish.
“This makes it easier for me to help get them ready for school; they will be better prepared and it helps them learn better because they have the supplies they need,” she said.
At the “Back-to-school Backpack Outreach Event” last week, 1,624 students from around eastern Hillsborough County that come from low-income families got free, stocked backpacks. The event, held at the YMCA Camp Cristina, was sponsored by The Tampa YMCA and the Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO), which provides relief in the form of food, clothing and items to families who have experienced recent emergencies.
Coordinating the back-to-school event was Sandy Acevedo, Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA building services director and Carol Scheafnocker, YMCA board member.
Scheafnocker said students came from schools from Riverview, to Plant City and Dover and children who were eligible were from families getting financial assistance from the State of Florida, receiving food stamps or unemployment. She said the backpacks contained items such as spiral notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, rulers, folders, scissors, glue and markers.
“It’s the difference between the kids going to school with just crayons and a pad of paper or going with a backpack just like the rest of the kids have,” she said. ‘We just want everyone to be on equal terms when they start school.”
Much of the cost and donations for the backpacks and supplies came through the cooperative efforts of the FishHawk Area Networking Group (FANG), the YMCA and a host of local businesses at the “11th Annual FANG Back to School Festival” held Aug. 4. Other backpacks and supplies were donated by FANG, individuals and the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club.
Volunteers from the YMCA, ECHO and local businesses spent the day checking pre-registered names and handing out new backpacks and getting back faces full of smiles for students from kindergarten to 12th grade. Many of the students and parents said getting such a variety of school needs and backpacks would have been financially impossible.
In addition to the backpack giveaway, the event had social agencies and outreach sources on hand to answer questions and give out information on their services.