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Armed for Education

In front of Pastor Jan Williams was a table full of colorful bookmarks, all made by some of members of First Presbyterian Church, where she ministers.

As soon as the children got their book bags Saturday morning from the Tools 4 School trucks, they made their way to Williams’ table set up on Center Street.

“Hi Sweetie, want a bookmark?” she asked the honey blond girl, carrying a crimson red book bag. “I bet we can find one that matches your bag.”

And find it they did.

This was the third year for First Presbyterian to be a part of the massive book bag giveaway organized by St. Paul Lutheran Church in Ironton and All Saints Lutheran Church in Worthington.

It’s a ministry she believes in.

“It is just to be out here and bless people,” Williams said. “And enjoy the day and be with the community.”

Yet she concedes as she watched the line of parents, grandparents and children that snaked down Center back along to Park Street, that the blessing has a price.

“In some ways it’s discouraging to watch so many people who don’t have money to buy things,” Williams said. “But then there are people who are willing to step up.”

Stepping up to meet this particular need has been part of St. Paul’s community mission for the past seven years. Teaming up with All Saints, the parish outside of Columbus, the church expected to give out 2,120 book bags Saturday.

The event opened up at 10 a.m., but by 9:30 a.m. lines were already blocks long with people four and five deep.

“There is such a need,” the Rev. David Ritchie, pastor at St. Paul’s, said as he watched the crowds coming forward to the trucks holding the bags. “People just can’t afford things the way the economy is and the job situation. They can’t afford it.”

Trucks were backed up on Center and Sixth streets by the church under a brightly striped canvas tent. Children received a hand stamp and then they went to their grade level to pick out the bag.

Center Street between Fifth and Sixth streets was blocked off for the First Methodist Church Summer Fest that was held in conjunction with the giveaway. There craft tables and rummage sales competed with giveaways of hot dogs, chips, cold drinks and sno cones.

“Children can’t learn unless they have the proper tools,” Ritchie said. “This is the love of Jesus that extends a helping hand like he taught.”