Backpacks for kids: Thousands receive free school supplies

More than 3,000 backpacks filled with school supplies were distributed on Saturday morning as part of the 9th annual Back to School Community Outreach where several organizations come together to help the families who need it the most as the beginning of the new school year approaches.

As hundreds of cars made the line that started right off the expressway, the backpacks were distributed via drive-thru filled with spiral notebooks, pens, paper, rulers, erasers, crayons and more. As attendees approached the distribution, they were divided into three lanes including one for special-needs children.

“Everybody is out here to help the community, especially right now during COVID, there is so much need out there,” Liz Shanholtzer, of Driscoll Health Plan Community Outreach, said. “Even though the kids are going to start with distance learning it does not mean that they don’t need the school supplies to start their education for this new year.”

The event is in partnership with the Brownsville Police Department, BCFS Health & Human Services, Driscoll Health Plan and the Tooth Place.

Felix Sauceda, chief at the Brownsville Police Department, said it is very important for the community to come together and help each other out, especially during these difficult times brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief Sauceda was seen distributing backpacks at the event wearing a face mask and gloves.

“Especially in these trying times that we are in, something that was unprecedented, it is very important and crucial that we continue to support our community and that they know we support them,” he said.

“We got their back and we are going to continue to serve our community, especially in these times. There is a lot of need so this is us coming together with all of our community partners and being able to ensure that the children are ready for the school year.”

Sauceda added it is very important to continue following CDC guidelines to avoid the further spread of the virus and also mentioned the importance of continuing educating the future generations while following the safety measures established my health officials.

“We need to continue to follow CDC guidelines and everything that officials are saying in regards to the pandemic. But most importantly, they need to make sure that we are here as a support group and that we have to continue to educate the future generations,” he said.

Rosalva Larrasquitu, director for parental family engagement with BISD, said while prior events have been bigger with more than 80 organizations attending to offer services for the community, such as free immunizations, this year due to the pandemic there was a need to adapt to follow safety measures. She said it is crucial students have everything they need to start the new school year and be able to succeed.

“We are so happy to be able to offer over 3,000 backpacks to our community. We are offering it to the community, which is a great thing,” she said. “We do as much as we can and any other donations that we get after this we will directly take them to the campuses for the families in need.”

Jeff Wolpers, director of Community Services at BCFS Health & Human Services, said BCFS has several programs that help children from ages 0 to 5 and that this event is of great importance, especially considering the families who need it the most in Brownsville. He said they have participated in this event for years.

“We all know that people are of different needs in the Valley and there are some people that have better needs than others and we are always glad to be able to help anybody but especially those that are in the most need. This is just a great time to do that and reach those families and be able to give back a little to the community,” he said.