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Sat, June 15

Over 1,400 children receive free supplies

Coalition for Compassion and Justice volunteers hand out 1,400 backpacks filled with school supplies as part of their Fair Start program Saturday in Prescott.
Photo by Les Stukenberg.

Coalition for Compassion and Justice volunteers hand out 1,400 backpacks filled with school supplies as part of their Fair Start program Saturday in Prescott.

A backpack, two books, one additional school supply item of choice, a 20 percent off coupon for any item at Goodwill, socks and a $20 gift card for Payless Shoes.

That was the bare minimum school children of all ages received if they were one of the first 1,400 to line up with their parents on Saturday, July 30, for charity programs called Fair Start and Shoes From the Shepherd. The programs took place in tandem at the Prescott United Methodist Church, 505 W. Gurley St.

Fair Start has been hosted by the Coalition for Compassion and Justice (CCJ) since 2004. The back-to-school supply program enables children from modest to low-income families to enter the new school year equipped with fresh gear their parents didn’t have to struggle to afford.

Shoes From the Shepherd began six years ago in partnership with Fair Start and is coordinated by members and leaders of the Prescott United Methodist Church.

This was the first time Velvet Heydorn had decided to take advantage of a charity event to acquire school supplies.

“I usually try to do it on my own little by little,” Heydorn said.

She’s a single mother of a young boy, Scott.

To ensure Scott got what he needed, they arrived at the church around 6 a.m. for the 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. event. There was already a significant line by that point.

“I heard someone showed up as early as midnight,” said Associate Pastor Misty Howick, of Prescott United Methodist Church.

Unlike many other charity events where the options are limited and those in need are simply handed what is available, the programs on Saturday resembled more of a free shopping spree.

“This is so much more empowering because the kids get to pick what they want and make it their own,” Howick said.

Scott, for instance, came out with a backpack covered in characters from one of his favorite Nintendo franchises, Mario.

He was clearly excited about the pick as he yelled “Super Mario” just after putting on the brand new backpack.

None of what was distributed through either of the programs was used. All of it was acquired through donations from the community and members of the Prescott United Methodist Church.

In addition to the basics, kindergarteners and first- and second-graders also received hand-crafted wooden toys made by the Yavapai Toy Makers.

To keep the children occupied while waiting in line, some of the about 120 volunteers buzzing around had tables set up for face painting and book coloring.

“It’s just something so it doesn’t feel like a punishment to come out here and get in line with their parents,” said Denise Woolsey, coordinator for Prescott United Methodist Church’s Shoes From the Shepherd.

Jeanine Woods and her two children, Jack and Sam, were some of the volunteers helping out. They were creating giveaway bags full of small school supplies for children who didn’t manage to make it in time to get a backpack.

The family attends large charity events whenever they can and used to fill food bags for CCJ every week. When asked why they decide to volunteer so often, their response was simple.

“You get nothing out of it for yourself except the satisfaction of helping out other people,” Woods

said.

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