Ready for school : Backpack giveaway gets students excited about classes

Posted: August 4, 2009 at 7:13 a.m.

Guadalupe Rios, 5, of Rogers, left, and Maria Gonzalez waited in line Monday to receive free backpacks and school supplies at the Samaritan Community Center in Rogers. The center teamed up with the United Way to give away the backpacks and offer physicals, dental exams and back-to-school haircuts to local children in need.

— With a line of people snaked around the building and 1,000 backpacks and piles of school supplies to hand out, the Samaritan Community Center opened its doors at 1 p.m. Monday for thecenter's annual backpack giveaway.

"This really helps me with school supplies that otherwise I could not afford," Tabitha Simeck of Gateway said.

Simeck and her seven children, ranging in age from 4 to 9, sweated out the heat to get ready for the school year. This year is the first time Simeck has needed a helping hand to get everything her children need for school.

Things began to get tight for her family when her husband was laid off from his job. Even though he has been able to find work, making ends meet with seven children is still not easy, Simeck said.

None of that mattered to her son Eli, 8, who stood in line waiting to get his new backpack.

"I get to get a backpack," Eli said.

When he found out the backpack would be filled with school supplies, his eyes got wide with excitement.

Jennifer McKirch of Rogers picked up three fully loadedbackpacks for her children.

When McKirch's daughter, Brittany, 13, received hers, the first thing she did was open the bag to examine its contents.

"I got my two favorite colors," Brittany said as she pulled out green and purple folders. Digging deeper, the soon-to-be seventh-grader also found green and purple erasers.

"This is fun stuff," Brittany said.

"I am glad. This (events like the backpack giveaway) is what keeps us together as a country - people stepping up to help each other out," McKirch said.

With four of the new backpacks at her side, Paula Breeden of Cave Springs watched patiently as her four children each received a haircut from area stylists, courtesy of the SheerKindness initiative of the Cobblestone Project.

"This is a big help to me. I work for a school kitchen, so I do not really make a lot of money, : any little bit helps a lot," Breeden said as her daughter, Kayla, 9, walked up with a brand new haircut.

Breeden's son, Jackie, 8, was itching to get into his new backpack and find out what it contained.

"I am excited that it might be holding a bunch of stuff like my last one did. It was big and blue," Jackie said.

This year, the Samaritan Community Center was able to team up with the United Way to provide 1,800 backpacks stuffed with school supplies, along with haircuts and dental exams to local school children in need. The center in Rogers distributed 1,000 backpacks on Monday. The remaining 800 backpacks will be handed out at the Samaritan Community Center in Springdale on Wednesday. Vouchers for the bags have already been provided to families.

News, Pages 1, 4 on 08/04/2009