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Churches answer call to arms students with school supplies
Residents fill backpack full of hope
Kids and parents stand in line at the Georgia Farm Bureau building on Lighthouse Manor Drive as Air Line Baptist Church gives away school supplies, backpacks and haircuts to people who need them. The church gave away 370 bookbags, bought and distributed 40 to 50 more, then promised those in line bags at a later date, said church member Maggie Eterno, who helped organize the first-time donation event. - photo by NAT GURLEY


Back to School Sunday
What: Giving away 100 backpacks, music, dramatized message, hot dogs and drinks
When: 10 a.m. Aug. 4
Where: Lula Assembly of Praise Church, 6158 Carter Street, Lula
More info: or 770-869-7632

Backpack Blessings
What: Giving away new and gently used back packs and clothing, school supplies and toothbrushes
When: noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 10
Where: LifeLine Mission Center, 1607 Calvary Church Road, Gainesville.
More info: Contact Wanda at

School Supplies and Haircuts
What: Free school supplies, backpacks and haircuts for 100 children
When: 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 3
Where: Yellow Creek Baptist Church, 6007 Yellow Creek Road, Murrayville

Grady Young Foundation, Inc.
What: Reception and Back-to-School giveaway
Where: Fair Street Neighborhood Center, 715 Fair St., Gainesville.
When: 3 to 5 p.m. Aug. 10
More info: 678-617-0360, 904-305-8260, 301-785-3150

United Way of Hall County Young Leaders Society Adopt-A-Backpack
What: Make donations of supplies, backpacks or money to purchase supplies which will be delivered to schools
When: Deadline is Aug. 8, supplies will be delivered to Gainesville and Hall County Schools on Aug. 14
Where: Donations can be dropped off at United Way office, 527 Oak St., Gainesville; Community Bank and Trust’s Hall County branches; Hamilton State Bank; The Crystal Plate, 111 Brenau Ave., Gainesville; Wells Fargo 340 Jesse Jewell Parkway, Gainesville; Wells Fargo Advisors on Spring Street, Gainesville; Publix Supermarkets
More info: 678-989-5333

Even for families who aren’t struggling financially, preparing students to go back to school can get expensive quickly.

Several churches and organizations in the area are having school supply drives to help cash-strapped families get the supplies they need so students will be ready to succeed in the new school year.

Last Saturday, members of Air Line Baptist Church in Gainesville, hosted a “Bags and Cuts” event to provide supplies and haircuts to students in need. Maggie Eterno and husband Joseph organized the event with help from the young families class. Maggie Eterno said she wasn’t sure how many people to expect to the church’s first school supply drive.

“Our goal was 400 to start with,” Eterno said. “When we first said our goal was 400, we kind of worried that we would have over, that we would have too many (book bags).”

But by 7 a.m., a line of families hoping to snag a free backpack filled with supplies and a haircut had started forming outside the church. After running out of backpacks and supplies, Eterno said church members made an “emergency run” to a nearby store for more. The church gave away more than 400 backpacks.

On the following Sunday, the congregation answered the call and donated $2,600 to purchase 300 more backpacks for children who were waiting in line when the supplies ran out.

“We knew there was a need, but nothing like what we saw this weekend,” Eterno said.

Several teachers at Yellow Creek Baptist Church in Murrayville know first hand many students lack needed items when school begins. At their suggestion, the church hosted a school supply and haircut giveaway for the past three years.

Tanya Seabolt, president of the Ladies Circle at the church, said the church plans to help at least 100 families from 9 a.m. to noon today. The children will “shop” for their supplies and choose a style of backpack or pencil.

“It’s like they get to shop for their own supplies,” Seabolt said. “It’s definitely a blessing to see how excited they get.”

Wanda Atkins, co-pastor of LifeLine Mission Center, said having school supplies is not just a matter of being prepared for lessons. When children are prepared, they don’t have the “embarrassment factor,” she said. They feel more confident and have self-esteem if they’re prepared and have a new outfit or backpack.

“It might seem silly to someone whose never been in lack,” Atkins said. “But just knowing that there is someone who cares enough to take that time and give to you and make sure you have something you really do need. I think that plants hope inside people.”

LifeLine Mission Center will give away gently used clothes, backpacks and supplies at its annual Backpack Blessings event from noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 10 at the church on Calvary Church Road in Gainesville.

Donations of school supplies and backpacks can still be made by contacting any organizations holding drives.

“It’s an amazing thing to be a part of knowing that you can make a difference,” Atkins said. “A backpack with some school supplies, maybe some clothing and a haircut. Those sort of things make a difference.”