As area schoolchildren begin to head back to the books this week, many of them have a little extra help.
Students of all ages were able to pick up backpacks full of supplies during events held at the Columbia Water Park and Duckworth Park.
“We’ve put together about 150 packs,” Marion County NAACP President the Rev. R.T. McGowan said Saturday. “We’re passing them out today and if we find out there are children in the schools that need them; we’ll go to each school. We’re trying to help as much as possible. We want to create good scholars in the community.”
A large crowd of children and families was on hand at the Water Park. Though heavy rains fell Saturday morning, they listened to speakers and local church groups performed under the pavilion.
“We have students here from the city and county,” Columbia Ward 3 Alderwoman Anna Evans said. “Everyone is coming together here.”
Evans reminded students and parents that they could get involved in the upcoming community cleanup on Saturday. McGowan said that the Columbia Walmart Supercenter helped the NAACP with the supplies. Randall Lewis, a Walmart employee, was introduced to the crowd and spoke about the efforts.
“Walmart is always willing to help the community,” he said. “We do a lot of things to help. Whenever you have a need, just come by and speak with our store manager.”
Across town, Kendale Lumpkins and several friends from his Dealing Hope organization were busy passing out book bags full of supplies at Duckworth Park.
“We just want to give back to the community and give them hope,” Lumpkins said. “I grew up here and played ball at Duckworth.”
A deejay played songs and children ate a lunch consisting of nachos, chips and hot dogs. A crowd of nearly 100 filled the Duckworth Center as Lumpkins gathered them to pray before the meal and then passed out the book bags full of supplies.
“I’m amazed at the turnout,” he said. “We’re going to continue this and hope it gets better every year. It’s really blessing for me to see so many people show up.”
Pictured Above: Area students line up to receive bags of school supplies at the Marion County NAACP event last Saturday at the Columbia Water Park. Two events helped hundreds of students. | Photo by Mark Rogers