On Saturday, Aug. 24, hundreds of Issaquah residents were offered a helping hand as part of the Eastridge Backpack giveaway. The event, which provided much needed backpacks and school supplies to students in the Issaquah School District, was organized by Eastridge Church and the Issaquah Food Bank.
In addition to providing backpacks to elementary, middle and high school students in need, the event also included a health and wellness fair, free haircuts and a free barbecue lunch.
“Every year our annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway meets a very real need in our community, so much so that we added a toy giveaway at Christmas two years ago,” said Eastridge Church Lead Pastor Steve Jamison about the event. “We wanted to build on that opportunity to give back to our neighbors, which is why we hosted a backpack giveaway last summer to do something more to help families.”
Approximately 750 backpacks were given out to Issaquah residents in 2012. Heather Retzlaff, executive assistant to Jamison, said after the success of last year’s event, the church decided to partner with the Issaquah Food Bank to ensure a broader outreach. In the past, each organization hosted their own school supply drive.
Cori Walters, executive director for the Issaquah Food Bank, said the food bank is actively developing partners for its Tools4Schools program that eliminate duplications of the same program, and saw this event as a great way to move forward.
“We know that together we can build a bigger, stronger program by monopolizing on our individual strengths and resources,” Walters said.
The food bank has been working with the church for several months to collect donations from local businesses and community members, which they in turn used to buy the appropriate school supplies in bulk.
On Aug. 7, 70 volunteers from both organizations worked to stuff 1,000 backpacks with the school supplies. Approximately 650 backpacks were given to children who pre-registered for the event. The remainder were given to walk-up attendees or will be held for needs later in the year.
Lisette Murrell, director of Eastridge Cares, said both the church and the food bank decided to expand the event to include a health and well aspect as a way to bring more awareness to what the community has to offer. In addition to free hair cuts, this year’s event offered free dental screenings for adults and children, provided by students from the University of Washington School of Dentistry.
“For us, it was a question of ‘How can we help our community?'” Murrell said.
At the end of the day, 67 children received free haircuts, 68 children participated in dental screenings, fluoride treatment and teeth care instruction, and 11 adults scheduled full dental appointments for extractions and major dental work.
Community partners, such a Eastside Baby Corner, were also present at the event to share information about the services they offer.