Around 200 backpacks given away at church party

BELPRE – Belpre area students got a little bit of help Sunday as a Belpre church gave out around 200 backpacks with various school supplies at a special event.

Rockland United Methodist Church held its third annual Backpack To School Party for families around the area at the church on Washington Boulevard.

Members of the church put on a picnic with various food and games culminating in the handing out of backpacks and school supplies for various students, from elementary to high school age.

Last year the goal was to hand out 100 backpacks and after a little bit of work getting more supplies, the church was able to hand out 150 at that time.

“We decided we needed to make it bigger and we went to the church and said we need to try to give out 200 backpacks,” said Pastor Jim Condrey. “This year, we partnered with Belpre Area Ministries, the United Way and Belpre Rotary.

“They provided the funds for the backpacks. Rockland and some other churches got together and bought the supplies.”

The event was open to anyone.

“It is a no-strings-attached event,” Condrey said. “People show up and it does not matter what neighborhood they live in. If it is West Virginia, great. If it is Ohio, great.

“We just want to let people know that Rockland Church is here and we care about them.”

The reasons for putting together an event like Sunday’s giveaway go back to some of the church’s most fundamental teachings.

“It is what Jesus would do,” Condrey said.

The backpacks were age-appropriate with cartoon characters on some and more traditional color schemes for older students. Students were identified by grade and received appropriate supplies.

The supplies included paper, pens, pencils, rulers, erasers, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, pencil boxes and more.

“We can’t get it all for them, but it is a good start,” Condrey said.

Many of the families who attended the event Sunday talked about the rising cost of school supplies and how they were thankful to groups and organizations who were willing to help them out.

“I think it is really a good thing they do here,” said Andrea Haddad, of Belpre, who brought her son and step-granddaughter. “It helps everyone and it is a good thing.”

Megan Beaver, of Belpre, had been to the event before.

“I think this is wonderful,” she said. “We came last year and had a good experience.

“We decided to come back. It is very helpful.”

Vicki Sunderman, of Vincent, who brought her children, said the event was a great chance for families to come together for fellowship. It is also a good way to help out the students at the beginning of the upcoming school year.

“I think it is just wonderful and a great thing for the community,” Sunderman said.

Around 63 percent of Belpre students are below the poverty line.

“We knew this was needed,” Condrey said. “The goal is to meet a need.”

Organizers are hoping to expand the program next year.

“Next year can we step it up a notch and do more,” Condrey said.