Sending Englewood Students Back to School with Supplies and Community Support
The Salvation Army Adele and Robert Stern Red Shield Center hosted its tenth annual Back-to-School Bash. The block party-style celebration provided a place for families in Englewood to enjoy food and games, and pick up new backpacks full of school supplies. For Red Shield Center Corps Officer Captain AJ Zimmerman, there was a greater purpose beyond the fun: to provide hope and a sense of community to all of the children present.
“More than just their parents care about them . . . we as a community love them, respect them, and want them to succeed,” Captain AJ said. “Those are important concepts that we must make sure our kids hear and our kids see.”
Dozens of children and families gathered in the Red Shield Center parking lot to enjoy lunch, live music from the Red Shield Center congregation, basketball, and games. The city brought its mobile vaccination bus, the Vaccination Station, to provide the COVID vaccine onsite to anyone eligible who wanted it. Tables were set up with information about Head Start, church, and fitness programs at the corps.
Salvation Army staff and volunteers gave away 500 backpacks filled with school supplies, including notebooks, pens, and pencils. Captain AJ was surprised to see hope in action before the event even began, when two young men showed up with 50 backpacks full of supplies they had bought themselves.
“It’s really cool to see it’s not just us who are saying here, community, this is what we have for you, but it’s the community saying, we need this as well,” Captain AJ said. “And I think in the midst of all the violence and all the things that are going on, we need some positives.”
Twenty-year-old Damonte Jones was one of the donors. “The reason I did it was because this is the area I grew up in. I used to go to summer camp here,” Damonte said. “So I felt I’d rather do it in the community where I was brought up.”
Lepoleon Kennedy brought two of his children to the back-to-school bash. He said he was grateful to get new school supplies for his son and daughter, who are entering the sixth and third grades at their neighborhood school.
“I’m a single parent. My wife passed away. I need the help, you know,” Lepoleon said. “I barely can get out to work because I have to full-time teach them. So it’s hard. Events like this help a lot of people like me.”
For Captain AJ, the hope is that Lepoleon’s children and all of the others who attended the Back-to-School Bash not only have the tools they need to succeed on day one in the classroom, but a sense of optimism.