HOUSTON – The line stretched out the front door and half way around Houston First United Methodist Church Saturday morning as the community gets ready for the first day of school.
The United Way and local civic groups hosted Houston’s first United Way Back 2 School resource fair where youngsters and parents got school supplies and resource material for the first day of school.
“We are glad for the turnout but we didn’t think we would see this many people,” said Mike Mitchell of United Way of Northeast Mississippi. “This is our second year to do this but this is our first year to do it in Houston.”
United Way joined with local churches and civic leaders to give out approximately 300 backpacks and the pencils, pens and paper needed for the first day of school.
“We have done this for a number of years,” said Houston Alderman, Shenia Jones. “We were glad to partner with the United Way and all these agencies this year. This shows there is a lot of need.”
The resource fair began in 2011, and took place in a single location. However, United Way expanded their Back 2 School fair into each county served by the United Way of Northeast Mississippi.
“The goal of United Way is to help people in need,” said Mitchell. “Giving a backpack and school supplies to some kids will help them get off to the right start this school year.”
Mitchell said he wished United Way could have done more. He pointed out the tornado in Tupelo this spring has hit charities and communities hard.
Chickasaw County saw United Way host its resource fair at the First Methodist Church Life Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, but most supplies were gone by noon.
“We had a lot of local agencies set up tables and give away pencils, pens and talk to parents about the resources that are available at their organization,” said Jones. “We didn’t meet every need but we helped a lot of people get in touch with people who can help them in the days to come.”
Kids and parents got to have their blood pressure checked, get information on good study habits and find out what type of government, church and social services are available.
Jones said once organizers saw the crowd they realized they had to put a limit on what they gave away.
To be eligible a student had to be entering grades kindergarten through sixth grade, be present at the fair and be accompanied by a responsible adult.
Parents were not allowed to pick up backpacks for children who were not present.
Lee County’s fair was July 19 in The Mall at Barnes Crossing with thousands showing up for that event. Kids received a backpack of their choosing stuffed with pencils, erasers, paper, glue, scissors, and other supplies, free of charge.
Overall, the United Way will hand out 4,000 backpacks in the seven counties this month. She said anyone qualifies to receive a backpack. The only questions asked were what county the child was from and if they were on free and reduced lunch.
For more information about Saturday’s Back 2 School Resource Fair visit www.unitedwaynems.org/b2s
United Way donations raised in Chickasaw County are dispersed to 32 agencies serving people in Chickasaw County. Only 1 percent of United Way donations go to administration and the rest is dispersed to local agencies.
Chickasaw County United Way agencies are; American Red Cross, Autism Center of Tupelo, CATCH Kids, COPES – CDF Charities Inc., EXCEL Inc., Faith Haven, Family Resource Center of NEMS, Gardner-Simons Home for Girls, Girls Scouts, Habitat for Humanity of Houston, Harden House, Hope Family Ministries, LIFE of Mississippi, Mission Okolona Food Pantry, NCADD, NMMC Camp Breathe EZZZE, NMMC Cancer Patient Fund, NMMC Diabetes Assistance Fund, NMMC Heart Patient Assistance Fund, NMMC Hospice Patient Assistance Fund, NMMC Social Work Patient Fund, North MS Kidney Foundation, Okolona Dollars for Scholars, Parkgate Pregnancy Clinic, Regional Rehabilitation Center, S.A.F.E., Sally Kate Winters Family Services, Salvation Army of Chickasaw County, Special Ed Bowling League, Survival Inc., Weston Reed Foundation and Women First.
The deadline to request funds from United Way of Chickasaw County is Nov. 1.