Thursday, July 26, 2007

800 kids to get free school supplies


Eight hundred local children will receive free backpacks stuffed with school supplies this weekend as the result of a coordinated effort between four different denominational churches.
Nearly 200 volunteers from All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, El Montecito Presbyterian Church, Montecito Covenant Church and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church will gather on Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon at Santa Barbara’s Covenant Church. They will cram the backpacks full with pencils, sharpeners, crayons, erasers and paper for local K-12 students.

The churches will donate the estimated $10,000 worth of supplies to Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, a nonprofit organization which owns 1,200 apartments and 1,000 low-income properties, which will deliver the backpacks to ten locations from Carpinteria to Guadalupe.
Covenant Church Pastor Don Johnson said this is the second charity event the four churches have conducted together.
“The project is really exciting,” Johnson said. “The four parishes really got together ... and we said, ‘Isn’t it great to be working together instead of against each other? Isn’t it great to do something that isn’t self-serving?’”
Johnson said the four churches had previously coordinated an AIDS benefit in November by providing 1,000 care gifts which could support seven people in Rwanda for three months. He said the churches were moved by a Peoples’ Self-Help Housing presentation.
“[They] won our hearts,” Johnson said. “This is a group that charters affordable housing for working class folks and tutoring for kids ... It’s us making a difference in the lives of these kids.”
He said he was impressed by the dedication of the volunteers. One anonymous donator provided 800 Payless Shoes giftcards, Johnson said. Once the backpacks are sorted, several Self-Help Housing vans will deliver the donations to ten of the organization’s properties.
Peoples’ Self-Help Housing Program Assistant Katie Falbo said her organization has managed properties and tutorial centers since 1970. The group’s fundraisers include building programs and toy drives.
She said she was pleased by the churches’ participation in the backpack drive.
“This is such an impressive effort,” Falbo said. “We’re really thankful for everything they’re doing for our neediest kids.”
Covenant Church is located at 671 Cold Spring Road. Peoples’ Self-Help Housing maintains its Santa Barbara office at 26 E. Victoria St.

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