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Area churches send kids back to school with a bash

Angelina Pleasant led a group of her neighbor’s children through the registration and then to the pickup trucks stocked full of backpacks Saturday.

“They’ve already done the fun stuff,” she laughed as Kayla and Keyina Scott and Jonathan and Taylor Hamilton picked up their bounty of school supplies.

It was her first time, she said, taking part in the Tools for School, sponsored by St. Paul Lutheran Church and its accompanying Summerfest, sponsored by neighboring congregations at First United Methodist and First Presbyterian churches.

The annual event allows area families to pick up age appropriate school supplies neatly bundled into backpacks and have some refreshments, too.

The Rev. David Ritchie, pastor of St. Paul, said some people began lining up for the backpack giveaway at 7 a.m. when he arrived.

At 10:15 a.m., the line stretched all the way down the sidewalk from Sixth and Center streets to Fifth and Center streets.

Chester Stamper was one of those parents who stood in line and waited for his family’s turn to step up for a backpack. He brought his son, Josh and grandchildren, Billy and Adrian Friend and Kyle Calhoun.

“This is important,” Stamper said. “Their parents are all out of work. You wouldn’t believe how much this helps.”

St. Paul member Rae Ann Richardson said church members prepared 2,120 backpacks full of supplies. Ritchie said the congregation had long ago lost count of how many hours had been volunteered for this one day, this annual opportunity to each out into the community with a not only a hand of help but a hand of hope.

“I want them to know God loves them no matter what,” Ritchie said. “We go through a lot of trials in life and not being able to pay for school supplies can be one of them. But God is with them in this time. As Christians we are called to serve others as Christ has served us.”

Just a few steps away from the St. Paul tent, members of First Presbyterian Church handed out handmade book marks while First Methodist Youth Pastor Jason Sharp and his wife, Emily, crushed ice and served snow cones. There were free movies and hot dogs, as well.

Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital from Russell, Ky., offered health education information and Ironton Police offered free fingerprinting.