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Starting the school year out right

NL volunteers help area youth during Back 2 School Bash
North Liberty Community Pantry volunteer Bob Housel helps a family gather socks, underwear, and toiletries during the second annual Back 2 School Bash Friday, Aug. 16, at Penn Meadows Park, in North Liberty. Over 550 area students’ families were provided with new shoes, backpacks, toiletries, socks and underwear, school supplies, groceries and haircuts during the afternoon event.

NORTH LIBERTY– Back to school time can be a tremendous burden to families with lists of necessary school supplies and the challenges of ever-growing children in need of new shoes and clothing.
The North Liberty community banded together on Friday, Aug.16, to ease that burden with the second annual “Back 2 School Bash” held at Penn Meadows Park.
Five-hundred fifty-seven North Liberty area kids received backpacks, shoes, toiletries, socks and underwear, a bag of groceries, school supplies, and even a haircut; and all at no charge.
Amanda Vincent, Garden and Special Projects Coordinator for the North Liberty Community Pantry, said grants helped defray the cost along with generous financial donations from Forever Green Garden Center, South Slope Cooperative Communications Company and MidWestOne Bank. Great Clips provided a crew of hair stylists for a professional trim for the kids, as well.
Forever Green, through funds raised during its Fun Fairs, was able to put $2,000 toward the purchase of shoes. Kohl’s gave the garden supply store a significant discount and staff provided help with selection, according to a Forever Green representative on-site. In addition, Forever Green earned “Kohl’s Cash” with the purchases, which then enabled them to purchase additional shoes. Forever Green was ultimately able to provide approximately 550 pairs with vouchers available if a particular size/gender ran out.
The North Liberty Unity Coalition (a group of representatives from the city, area churches, social services agencies and residents), family advocates from the North Liberty schools, various other community groups, including the North Liberty Optimist Club, and businesses, along with the North Liberty Community Pantry banded together for the event.
Forever Green had donation bins for supplies, as did the churches, the North Liberty Recreation Center and the North Liberty Community Library, said Kaila Rome, the executive director for the pantry. “I’ve heard of volunteers who got their coworkers to donate supplies and get the word out that people need things for back to school.” The hope is to send the kids to school fully prepared, with support from the community, she said.
Rome noted 516 students were served last year.
“We tried to reach out specifically to northern Johnson County (and North Liberty) this year,” she said. Servolution, a volunteer service group affiliated with Life Church in Coralville, held similar events in Coralville and Tiffin.
“We do this because it’s important to help out your neighbor, and we want the kids to have a successful school year,” Vincent said. “And sometimes we all need to come together to make that happen.”