Arlington's ‘Back2School Rally’ draws record crowd

ARLINGTON — Presidents Elementary once again found its playgrounds packed with local families in need of supplies to start the school year as the second annual “Back2School Rally” drew more than 500 attendees.

Event coordinator Brandie Broadhead, the children’s pastor at the Arlington Assembly of God Church, explained that backpacks containing school supplies were made available not only to the 510 pre-registrants for the event on Aug. 28, but also to as many as 100 walk-ins that same day.

“The school supplies in each backpack depend on each individual student’s grade level and school,” Broadhead said. “They’re handed out by volunteers at color-coded tables, with each color covering an alphabetical grouping of last names to distribute everyone in line evenly. The parents have to have their children present to collect their backpacks, and every child gets his or her hand stamped so that we don’t risk duplication.”

Broadhead credited the Downtown Arlington Business Association, Silver Hanger, the Medallion Hotel, Flowers by George, Hagen’s Food and Pharmacy, Send-Out Cards, Aerospace Manufacturing Technologies and the Arlington School District with making the event possible through their support.

The rally organizers were thanked in turn by school district staff — including ASD Superintendent Dr. Kris McDuffy, Kent Prairie Elementary Principal Kathy Engell and Eagle Creek Elementary Principal Denise Putnam — during an assembly in the cafetorium of Presidents Elementary just prior to the backpack distribution.

“I can’t express my gratitude enough to the team that came together to make this happen,” McDuffy said. “Arlington is a truly special community with the best school staff in the world.”

Although estimates for the previous year place its turnout between 350-400, Broadhead noted that this year marked the first that the rally included middle school and high school children as well, which she figured added about 200 students to this year’s rally ranks.

Not only did the Arlington United, Free Methodist, Lifeway and Christ the King churches join Arlington Assembly at the event, but community groups including Cascade Valley Hospital, the Arlington Police and Fire departments, the Arlington Library, Kids’ Kloset, school and district PTAs and the Lord’s Kitchen all put in appearances as well, many of them handing out free food and information to go along with the free school supplies.

Demetria Bryant’s six children range in age from four to 11 years old, but they’re all starting school in Arlington for the first time this year. The Bryant family was forced to relocate to Arlington from their former hometown of Joplin, Mo., by the tornado in May.

“My parents live in Arlington,” Bryant said. “Just getting new clothes in time for school has been a struggle. I’d be spending more than $100 on these supplies alone without this event. It’s been hard enough on the kids, who didn’t want to have to make this move.”

Tamy Sweeney’s daughters will be going back to elementary and middle school this year, which marks their family’s first time at the rally.

“As a single parent, it’s tough in this economy, even though I’m fully employed,” Sweeney said. “It’s great that this community is coming together to pitch in for the kids. Both my girls are excited for school to start. Kaylee’s finally going to be one of the big kids at Post when he starts seventh grade this year. They both love their schools and love their teachers and are ready to get back. I love that their schools and teachers are really good.”


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