For the third year in a row, Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia has given away free school supplies for children in need, ages 5-17.
This year’s giveaway was held on Aug. 24 at Catholic Charities’ food pantry Christ House in Alexandria, and began with a prayer led by Bishop Michael Burbidge, followed by a meal. Backpacks filled with supplies were then handed out to the students by Burbidge and Catholic Charities president and CEO Art Bennett.
The backpacks, prepared by volunteers, were stuffed according to the specific grade level of each child, with high schoolers receiving supplies such as three-ring binders, protractors and spiral notebooks while elementary students received supplies such as crayons, glue sticks and pencil pouches.
Each child also received a gift card to Payless shoe store as well as snacks and water.
“We really care about these families who come to Christ House,” Bennett told The Arlington Catholic Herald. “This event makes a real difference for them. And it brings children and parents - and us - a lot of joy. We want to help parents help their kids feel excited about school and ready to go right out of the gate. That happens here.”
This year, 130 students received school supplies through the giveaway.
Lashay Bailey, who attended the event with her seven children, told the Herald that the giveaway was “a blessing” and “means a lot. We’re going through a tough time right now.”
Junice Talbert, a single mother of three, came to the event to pick up a backpack for her 5-year-old son who is starting kindergarten.
“You spend so much for everything and, as a single mom, it’s hard to also pay for these supplies,” she said. “The prayers help a lot sometimes; it’s really stressful.”
The giveaway was funded by the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria and individual donors through Christ House, the St. Lucy Food Project and the Emergency Assistance Program (EAP).
Catholic Charities in Arlington provides the region with a myriad of services, including a food pantry, emergency financial assistance, crisis pregnancy counseling, foster care, refugee resettlement services and other programs and ministries.