By CHERIL VERNON
A local church will provide 1,000 children with backpacks full of school supplies during its second annual Back to School Bash on Saturday.
Cornerstone Worship Center in Palestine will hold the back-to-school event from 6 to 8 p.m. at the church, which moved recently to its new location at 1100 Salt Works Road, behind Turbyfill Machine Shop.
There will be no requirements for parents or children to meet to receive a backpack.
“Show up with the child and we will hand you a backpack. They do not have to receive federal assistance to qualify for this,” said Amanda Malone, who co-pastors Cornerstone Worship Center with her husband, David. “We encourage everyone to get here early. Even though we have 1,000 backpacks, they are going to go fast.
“As long as we have backpacks, we will not turn any child away,” Malone said.
Last year the church gave away 400 backpacks filled with school supplies — and ran out quickly.
“We ran out within 15 minutes and had to turn away about 400 children and their parents. It absolutely broke my heart,” Malone said.
Since then, the church has been planning year-round to make sure that this year’s event has enough supplies to serve a large portion of the community.
Last Saturday, church members spent more than six hours filling the 1,000 backpacks full of supplies.
“We were really tired after filling all of those backpacks, but we are ready for Palestine this weekend,” Malone said. “We want people to know that Cornerstone is here to help them. Our church has really been coming together for this event. As Pastor David Malone has been saying: ‘all hands on deck.’”
At this year’s event, a youth band will provide live music. Hot dogs, chips and water will be provided to the first 500 children. Local hairstylists have donated their time to offer haircuts for the students.
Dr. Michael Key from Key Chiropractic will offer free spinal checks. The DARE program will offer free fingerprinting, and McGruff the Crime Dog will visit with the children.
In addition, Gideons International is providing 1,000 Bibles to put in the backpacks.
“We have changed something up this year. We will have an express lane for those that just want a backpack and don’t want to be in line for the haircuts and other things,” Malone said. “That way they can get in that line, get their backpack and be on their way.”
Malone reminds parents that haircuts will be offered from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday only.
“We will do haircuts while time allows, so it may be more of a first-come, first-serve basis for those,” Malone said.
Parking attendants will be available to assist families with parking during the event. In case of overflow from their church parking lot, Malone offers the following advice:
“You cannot park along the Loop, but you can park along Court Drive, Salt Works Road and Dee Ann Street,” Malone said. “There will be police officers out and about that evening to help us.”
Cornerstone Worship Center’s second annual Back to School Bash has been a true community effort.
“We have a long list of sponsors — which we are calling ‘helping hands’ — who have been supporting us on this effort,” Malone said.
One of those supporters is Harley Davidson, which provided 100 backpacks with the Harley Davidson emblem on them.
Other sponsors include: RAM Auto Sounds & Security, Mountain Pure, Dr. Patricia H. Luce, Colonial Gold Buyers, Larry and Renee Acreman, Sondra Bell, K9 Cuts, Jamie’s Therapeutic Touch, 4-H Oilfield Services, Big Mike’s Wrecker Service, Rick’s Lawn Service, Flint Energy, Owen’s Tires, L&P Paint & Body, Appliance Sales & Service, Trutone Paint and Body, Security Storage, KVNE 89.5 radio station, Dr. Davida Wardell from Pediatrics Associates; Frank and Sharon Harrison; Thomas Wright Insurance; Key Energy; PSI; KYYK 98.3; James F. Ray; Air Plus Air & Heating; Depend-a-Can; Cornerstone’s Women of Purpose ministry and Men of Courage ministry.
Cornerstone Worship Center is already looking ahead to next year.
“We are so faithful to this ministry — heart and soul — that we are already planning for next year,” Malone said. “Several of our sponsors said they want to be on board with us next year and are looking forward to helping out.”
The church would like to offer 1,500 backpacks filled with school supplies in 2014.
“We want to expand our region and help as many as we can,” Malone said.
For more information about the Back to School Bash, call Amanda Malone at 903-922-6014.