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Free school supplies were available for students at the Back to School Bash.

First United Methodist Church hosts Back to School Bash

By Jesse Deal, for the SNAP

With the school year starting back soon, many parents are scrambling to prepare their children with all the materials they need for classes.

On Saturday morning, First United Methodist Church in Norwood assisted parents by hosting a Back to School Bash, sponsored by Atrium Health’s Faith Community Health Ministry with a partnership by the Stanly County Department of Public Health.

Around 150 children were provided with book bags and a host of school supplies throughout the three-hour event.

“When we started this out three years ago, it was one of my goals to help children start out school with a good year,” said Sarah Lee, who is a parish nurse for the ministry and coordinator of the event.

“In 2016, we had about 50 children, which we thought was pretty good for our first year. The second year, Christian Coalition of Christ wanted to come in together with us to do school supplies,” Lee said. “This year, they gave us $500 and some of the members from their churches came to help.”

According to Lee, dozens of children were already lined up ready to go by the event’s start at 9 a.m. Once they picked out a free book bag, they got to tour the various booths in the church parking lot while volunteers filled up their bags with all the school supplies required by nearby K-12 schools — and more.

The educational booths ranged from a Norwood Fire Department fire safety program to an Atrium Health nutritional program, as well as many others.

“Today, we’re doing information about the 5210 Program and teaching kids these principles to be able to stay healthy,” said Atrium Health Registered Nurse Laura Emery. “This program is going out into all four different school systems — everything we do is community outreach.”

Atrium Health Registered Nurse Laura Emery had prizes available to win by spinning the wheel.

Inside the church’s fellowship hall, Melissa Ewing of the Richmond County Lions Club led eye exams for children by using her Spot Vision Screener device.

“It is a camera that was designed initially to work with children,” Ewing said. “It looks for different diseases in the eye.”

Recently, the device discovered that a local 5-year-old girl unknowingly had a tumor behind her eye and she was able to get it treated before it got worse.

Other booths at the event included a free haircut station, a dental setup with free supplies, a healthy snack booth, as well as appearances by Teddy Bear Clinic, Pee Dee Electric and Butterfly House. Each booth featured informational brochures as well as souvenirs to go with it.

“We are a children’s advocacy center and we’re promoting STOP.GO.TELL, a new program we’re offering to first and fifth graders,” said Courtney Swain of Butterfly House, the children’s advocacy center. “We partnered with Stanly County Schools to deliver the program.”

Courtney Swain of the Butterfly House Children’s Advocacy Center stands at her booth.

An example of the event’s collaborative spirit arose when the school supply congregators realized that they were running low on binders. Members of the Albemarle chapter of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association motorcycle club stepped up and purchased multiple boxes of binders for the children.

With the bash increasing in attendance each year, organizers said it is sure to return for next year’s school season.

Jesse Deal is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.