Registration for the region’s largest back-to-school program begins Saturday at eight area churches.

The 16th annual Back2School program, launched by Pastor Michael Harrison of The Community Fellowship, will hold registration Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and Tuesday, July 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“What we’re doing is having sign-up events before what we call our big event,” Back2School principal Katie Whitlow said, referring to the day when school supplies and shoes will be handed out. “We measure children’s feet to make sure they have the right shoe size, then on the day of the big event, we tell them an inspirational story.”

Whitlow said the story is meant to “provide hope and encouragement for the new school year.” During the distribution on August 6, students will wash their feet and receive a backpack, new school supplies and shoes.

The principle behind foot washing, Harrison said, is that “it’s humbling. Some people say, “Don’t wash my feet,” but we do it because Jesus did it. This last meal, he took off his robe, he put on a towel, took a basin and washed his feet.

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The majority of funding for the program comes from donations, sponsors and grants from various organizations. Whitlow said the cost to run the program each year is about $95,000 to $100,000, with a cost per child of $22.

For registration, there are no financial requirements or restrictions. Families just have to show up with their children. Sixteen churches, including eight local ones, are participating this year as registration and pick-up locations, and about 100 churches are helping the program in other ways.

Registration dates and pickup will also have meals for people who come to register, and some locations will offer free haircuts.

New this year, Back2School will hold a special registration day Wednesday at Hooker Field during the Mustangs game. The team is one of the sponsors. Admission to this game will be free for children.

From July 15-17, Back2School volunteers will be at Walmart handing out request lists of school supplies that shoppers can choose to buy for children, and people can also register their children there.

Once everyone has registered, volunteers from all locations will come together to pack backpacks with supplies and pray at each church’s lot individually.

Back2School will have a pickup day with fewer crowds and a quieter environment for children with special needs on August 5 at The Community Fellowship. When registering, families will be asked if their children require any special accommodations.

“We really try to accommodate the needs of the family,” Whitlow said. “It’s really to make it as special for this kid with special needs who maybe doesn’t have the same opportunities as his siblings.”

Registration locations include: The Community Fellowship at 2674 Virginia Ave, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church at 7174 Mountain Valley Road, Fairway Baptist Church at 9427 Fairystone Park Hwy, Uptown Ministry Center at 145 E Main St., Kearfott Memorial Baptist Church at 1403 Rivermont Heights, First Baptist Ridgeway at 15 Church St., Hillcrest Baptist Church at 18075 AL Philpott Hwy, and Stanleytown Amazing Grace Baptist Church at 755 Fairystone Park Hwy.

Since its inception, Back2School has served over 32,000 children. The program was started in 2007 because “we saw a need,” Harrison said, “for students who need backpacks and shoes, but also school supplies.”

“The reason we do this is because our motto is to show God’s love to our community and we do this through random acts of kindness so we earn the right to tell them about the greatest thing in the world” , Harrison said. . “And we believe that’s Jesus.”

“Of course we want to support families and students as they prepare to return to school,” Whitlow said. “But for us, it’s kind of a vessel to plant that seed that there’s a community of people who love them and want to encourage them and connect them with God. It’s not about the shoes; it’s not about backpacks, it’s something bigger.

To make a donation, go to the website gob2s.com or see the volunteers at Walmart next weekend.


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