Cutline: Steven Burks, left, and Samantha Ziller show one of the thousands of boxes of free school supplies being given away as part of Back To School Orange County at 9 a.m. to noon at Lamar State College Orange Student Center. RECORD PHOTO: Dave Rogers

 

Dave Rogers

For The Record

 

School bells are right around the corner and Back To School Orange County will be ready once again.

The sixth annual event, begun originally by 18 community churches and grown to include dozens of area businesses and civic clubs, will be held from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Aug. 4 at Lamar State College-Orange.

“We’ve given out 6,000 bags of schools supplies in five years,” says Victory Life Church’s Steven Burks, “and we plan to give out 1,000 more this year.”

School years begin Aug. 15 at Orangefield, Aug. 16 at Bridge City, and Aug. 27 at Little Cypress-Mauriceville, Vidor and West Orange-Cove.

“Christians coming together to bless the children of Orange County” is the mission statement for the event and Orange Christian Services, Salvation Army and Department of Family and Protective Services is among the many sponsors.

“Our goal is that no child begins school empty-handed,” Burks said.

And with a program that includes immunizations, eye exams, haircuts and all sorts of fun and games, it’s a stop made each summer by hundreds of families.

Pre-registration is advised to reserve school supplies.

Pre-registration is set for 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m July 18-19 and July 23-26 at Orange Christian Services, 2518 W. Park Ave, Orange; and from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday, July 21 at Lamar State College Student Center, 407 Green Ave., Orange.

Limited registration will continue on the day of the event.

Parents or legal guardians must be present with children and must bring proof of the child’s enrollment in an Orange County school. A student ID, report card, or letter from school wil suffice.

Vaccinations are free to students with CHIP or Medicaid, who can show a valid card; otherwise the cost is $14 for one shot and $10 for each additional shot per child.

“VaxANation is providing our Immunization Clinic for pre-K to 18 years old,” said Kelly Meadows, school nurse at Little Cypress Intermediate, and another volunteer for Back To School Orange County.

“We have a lot of dual enrollment students and they have to have meningitis boosters for their colleges. Those shots aren’t covered by many insurers and doctors can charge up to $100 for them.

“Here, they’re $14, or free if a student has CHIP or Medicaid.”

Planning for this year’s event features a traffic flow that enters through refreshment stands and game tents. Laser tag and a game truck will be set up on the lawn outside the student center.

After checking in at the door, families will have the option for their children to get vaccinations and eye screenings before pastors are waiting to begin the supply-giving by handing out backpacks which the students can fill with items given away at booths set up by some of the sponsors.

“There’s about $200 of stuff to put inside the backpack, and they also have an opportunity to connect with the services the non-profits offer,” Burks said.

And then they get their official “Kitz for Kids” school supply box. It includes paper, construction paper, crayons, markers, water colors, glue sticks and much more.

These are the school supply kits purchased in bulk by the organizers with donations from sponsors.

“When parents bring their child for the first time, they can’t believe they’re getting all these free things,” said Samantha Ziller.

“I’ve seen moms crying when they walk out the door.”

And to finish off the event, the loaded-up students will exit through displays of vehicles and other essential equipment set up by area police and fire departments and other first responders.

Washer tournaments and other games for the children to interact with the first responders are planned.

“This year, we’re trying to support kids and their families connecting with first responders,” Ziller said.

Leftover school kits will be donated to area schools to wrap up the Back To School Orange County event.

But that’s just the first of three events conducted each year by these volunteers and sponsors in support of Orange County students.

In January, the non-profit “Restocks The Shelves” of teachers, replenishing school and educational supplies; and then in April, Back To School Orange County holds a fundraising fishing tournament.

Burks said he needs volunteers for an advisory board for the fishing event, which offers several thousand dollars of guaranteed prize moneys and giveaways.

“I think everybody went home with something from last year’s Back To School Fishing Tournament,” he said.