Community members, business owners, nonprofit organizations and churches from all over the River Region banded together this summer to make sure St. Charles Parish students were ready for their first day of classes.
250 students received free school supplies and 100 children received fresh haircuts and braids when Afro L’Amour and Lili’s Beauty Supply hosted the third annual Back to School Giveaway and Fresh Cuts and Braids Event.
Organizer Brandi Jacobs of Luling said the event was a resounding success.
“The event was a huge success and blessing to the kids,” she said. “The children said they were grateful to have supplies, uniforms and their hair styled for the first day of school. I want my boys to look back and say, ‘My mom really did something … she helped kids.”
Jacobs said Lili’s Beauty supply in Luling provides her with the space and products she needs to make the event successful, and that her desire to give back to the community is fueled from her own experience of being bullied as a child because she didn’t have some of the things other kids had.
“I don’t have much to give, but I do have talent,” Jacobs said. “I understand how expensive it can be to get a child’s hair done. I want the kids to go to school prepared and give the children something to look forward to with a touch of love.”
In another event, St. Charles Parish and United Way of St. Charles once again joined forces to host their annual Youth Rally/Backpack giveaway event, where 700 backpacks given away each year at the rally.
Kacy Kernan, United Way of St. Charles Director of Community Impact, said the dedication to the event even through the pandemic of the past year-plus is because the cause is an important one. She noted the average cost of school supplies for a given child in 2021 is close to $200, making this time of year a challenging one for many parents.
“Many years ago, it was our goal to create an event where families who needed the help could come out, learn about community resources, and get a kick start on the supplies they need for school,” Kernan said, also noting that over the years the event has blossomed into a partnership with organizations including Blessed to be a Blessing, the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, St. Charles Parish Public Schools, the St. Charles Parish Dept. of Community Services and A Safe Space of St. Charles.
James Fletcher of Celebration Church in LaPlace said his church’s first back to school giveaway – that was held in conjunction with XP Unity – came together in just a little over a month and resulted in over 900 stuffed backpacks being given away to River Region students.
“I know how it is coming up and not having specific things that you need to excel,” he said. “I remember coming up and not having every that I needed, so I wanted to be part of something to help these kids.”
Fletcher said the church plans on making the giveaway an annual event, and that they are already planning a Christmas event.
Kajuan Smith of Wolly’s Kitchen said 200 back packs filled with supplies and about 100 uniform shirts were given away at his 6th annual East Bank Back to School Giveaway.
“I love giving back to the community because when I was young my friends and I never had no one to do this for us, and I know it’s hard for single mothers with more than one child to always have everything to make sure their children are ready school,” he said. “Every year I get donations from family, friends and a few businesses … I love how we all come together and get the mission completed.”