Members of Valley Grace Brethren Church in Armagh want to give children a good start when they return to school.
The congregation is conducting its initial Back to School Blowout from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the church, located at routes 56 and 22.
The effort is similar to stuff-the-bus campaigns, where people donate back-to-school items to accommodate the needs of local students.
The event is open to children in all grades and all income levels.
“Free back-to-school supplies, haircuts and backpacks will be given away while supplies last,” said Donna Lynn Custer of Charles, event coordinator.
Custer is appreciative of the generosity of so many people who have stepped forward.
“When we first came up with the idea, we had hoped to help at least 25 children,” Custer said. “But because of the generosity of so many people, we will be able to give at least 300 children some supplies to begin their school year.”
Classes in the United School District begin Aug. 28.
The only stipulation for obtaining supplies is that the child receiving the items must be present.
“We can’t have people come in with one child and say they have others at home who need supplies,” Custer said.
Organizers are making it a fun day for children by offering face painting, free fingerprinting, crafts, music, a bake sale and photo opportunities.
The Rev. Norris Mason said the event is blossoming.
“As much as schools supply the children, they don’t supply everything,” Mason said. “We are a small church with about 60 members, and with the help of other volunteers we hope to pull this off without a hitch.”
Some of the items donated since early June include pencils, glue, crayons and notebooks.
“We are still taking donations of school supplies,” Custer said.
“We know there are people who are often too busy to buy supplies and would prefer to donate money, so we have some church members who are available to purchase items.”
The items are appropriate for elementary-age students.
Shawn Baird of the St. Clair Township Police Department will be taking fingerprints of children.
“Parents may take the fingerprints home and place them in a safe-deposit box in the event that an emergency should arise,” Custer said.
Members of the Armagh-East Wheatfield Volunteer Fire Company will offer people a photo opportunity.
“Children can wear a firefighter’s helmet and pose on a fire truck while their parents take pictures,” Custer said.
Three employees of Cuts-N-Stuff, 270 Fairfield Ave. in the West End section of Johnstown, will team up with stylists Meagan Custer and Cindy Foster of Seward to offer free haircuts to boys and girls.
Children also will have an opportunity to make a craft to take home.
“Members of Calvary United Methodist Church (Brush Valley) will assist children in making a pencil holder,” Custer said. “They will be made from a tin can and decorated by the kids.”
Music will be provided from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. by the United elementary faculty band.
For information or to volunteer, call 322-2198.
For the kids
What: Back to School Blowout.
Where: Valley Grace Brethren Church, routes 56 and 22, Armagh.
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.