GUMC in Copperas Cove gives away school supplies to 600 students
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Grace United Methodist Church of Copperas Cove held its 10th annual Back to School Buzz event, in a new way, on Saturday.
The event is normally held on a Sunday afternoon on the church grounds and features free food, free haircuts and door prizes in addition to the free school supplies. Due to the pandemic, the event was changed to be a drive-thru event, where parents registered ahead of time to claim the bags of supplies and did not have to leave their vehicles. Volunteers verified on their list as families drove through, and then placed the bags in each vehicle.
This year, the church gave away close to 600 bags of supplies.
By noon Saturday, 570 bags had been claimed by 266 families. The event was open to Copperas Cove ISD students only and limited to four bags per family.
In past years, parents normally would start lining three hours ahead of the event to ensure they got a bag, said Crystal Crowder, GUMC missions and evangelism chairperson.
Registration for the event opened through an EventBrite link on July 18, with parents signing up for either a morning or afternoon time slots.
The bags were divided into two age groups- Pre-K -5th grade and 6th-12th grade. The younger age group bags featured pencils, paper, glue, scissors, folders, crayons and markers. The older age group bags had paper, pencils, pens, highlighters, scissors, folders, etc.
“Those bags are heavy,” Crowder said. “They’ve got some good supplies in there to get kids started.”
In its first year, the event distributed 125 bags of supplies to needy families, Crowder said.
“Every year, this event grows, and like I mentioned earlier people show up normally starting at noon to stand in the Texas August heat for three hours to get school supplies for their kids, and there is obviously a huge need, especially this year with coronavirus,” Crowder said.
Crowder mentioned that with people out of work or working reduced hours, the need is more apparent.
“It’s very important to us as a church and as a congregation to reach out to people in our community and really meet those needs and share the love of Jesus with our community and our neighbors, not really expecting anything in return but just to show, ‘Hey, we’re here for you and we want to help out as much as we can,’” Crowder said.
When it came time to plan this year’s event, there were concerns about exposure and illness.
“It wasn’t matter of ‘Can we do it?’, it’s ‘How can we do it and do it safely and efficiently and still get kids the supplies that they need to be successful in school,’” Crowder said.
All of the money for supplies was donated by members of the congregation.
“We had a lot of donations because obviously our congregation, we really believe in this event,” Crowder said. “This is definitely our biggest outreach by far.”
Normally, church members would be bringing in the school supplies as they came to the worship service every Sunday. Due to the pandemic, Grace United Methodist Church has not been holding in-person worship services. All donation drive efforts have been virtual.
“We’re still very, very glad that we have the support and backing from our congregation to put this event on and make it possible,” Crowder said.
Planning for event had also been done virtually. Volunteers only met to unload the school supplies, pack the bags and then distribute the bags. Altogether, about 40 volunteers helped make sure the event was a success.
“We love this event,” Crowder said. “It’s fun, and people are really appreciative.”
Volunteers Karen Reynolds and Jessica Raines helped pass out the bags of supplies Saturday morning.
This was Reynolds’ first year volunteering.
“I think this is wonderful because we have so many underprivileged children in the beginning that needed the help, and now with the pandemic, it’s like doubled or tripled the children, and I feel like any little bit that can be done to help these families is a big blessing,” Reynolds said.
Raines has been volunteering with the event since it first began.
“I’ve seen it grow every single year since we’ve done it, so it’s been fantastic,” Raines said. “It’s very rewarding, so that’s why we come back every year. I’m really glad that we could still do it and support the community in some way even through the pandemic.”