WELLSVILLE - "No more pencils, no more books!" may have been the happy chant of children when classes ended for the summer almost three months ago. With a new school year set to begin in little more than a week, however, it's a time of anxiety for some local teachers, wondering if their students will have the supplies they need.
Staff and members of Wellsville First Christian Church helped to alleviate that worry with their third annual Backpack Bash on Saturday. An appreciative crowd of children, parents and grandparents flooded Main Street, closed between Eighth and Ninth streets, in front of the church for the event, which combines a giveaway of free school supplies for local families with the atmosphere of a street carnival.
WFCC youth pastor Brandon Russell said church members saw a need in the community and heard from teachers about the shortage of supplies amongst many of their students. The event was conceived as a way to help families who may not be able to afford the essentials. "Oftentimes, the kids don't have what they need," he said. "If they can start off the year in a good, positive way, it'll help them feel better about themselves, feel better about what they're doing, and hopefully, be more successful."
Aaliyah Carlevale, 5, and her sister Aleighja Taylor, 7, hang on to their new backpacks filled with free school supplies, which they received during their visit to Wellsville First Christian Church’s annual Backpack Bash on Saturday. Enjoying the day with them were their uncle, Corey Carlevale and grandmother, Kathy McCauley. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
In cooperation with the ADAPT Coalition of Columbiana County, church staff and volunteers gave away 400 backpacks, each filled with a notebook, folder, ruler, crayons, markers, pencils, colored pencils and glue.
Among those taking advantage of the opportunity was Kathy McCauley of Wellsville, who is raising her grandchildren, Aleighja Taylor, 7, and Aaliyah Carlevale, 5. "This is a good thing for the community, because a lot of us can't afford to go out and buy school supplies and backpacks," she said. McCauley was blunt in her assessment of the importance of the Bash. "What they do is a big, big help," she said. "Without these people, without this church, I think a lot of these kids wouldn't be able to go to school with everything they need."
In addition to filling a need, Russell said the Backpack Bash was intended to be a fun day in general for the people of Wellsville. "We try to make sure it's something everybody can come out and enjoy," he said. That's why the event also featured fun attractions for kids, such as music, games, face painting and a large bounce house. Very popular with children and parents alike was a petting zoo with rabbits, miniature horses and micro-mini pigs from Springhill Farm.
The Friends of the Old Fire Station opened the doors of the former firehouse to display its vintage equipment, including a rare 1941 Chevrolet fire engine. Kids were invited to climb behind the wheel of the open-cab 1950 Seagrave fire engine, used by Wellsville firefighters through the 1990s, and ring the original firehouse call-out bell.