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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Christian Sandoval, 9, right, and his brother Christopher gather school supplies at Faith Baptist Church.

Church-business project provides school supplies

Nearly 250 children at Brentwood Elementary School will start the school year with a free backpack full of new school supplies, thanks to the generosity and vision of a neighborhood church and area businesses.

Dozens of families lined up in the Faith Baptist Church parking lot at 6600 Trier Road Sunday to pick up their custom-packed school supplies and book bags.

This was the second year for the giveaway, Pastor Steve Roper said.

It was the first year Sheila Jones of Fort Wayne took advantage of the program. She received supplies for two of her four children and was enjoying lunch with her kids and nieces on the church lawn, where guests were also treated to a variety of games and activities.

“This was very helpful and saved me quite a bit of money,” Jones said.

The program came about soon after the church partnered with Brentwood in the Rising Stars program in January 2011.

The collaborative effort by the Fort Wayne Community and East Allen County schools and Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County sponsors donations of needed items to students in 20 selected elementary schools and offers free parenting classes in a few of the schools. “There were a lot of needs, and we were trying to think of some ways to help the children,” Roper said.

Church officials decided to start the children off on the right foot at the beginning of the school year and take some stress off parents by providing book bags and school supplies.

“We wanted to show God’s love in tangible ways,” Roper said.

The school issues vouchers for the program to parents of children in kindergarten through sixth grade at the annual summer registration. Although those who qualify for free and reduced lunches are given priority and the church plans for supplies to be given to 40 students per grade level, they do not turn away anyone who asks for assistance, Roper said.

Two additions to the festivities this year included a fire truck display and free haircuts for students.

After Kim Corya, a local hairdresser, set up shop on the church steps, it didn’t take long until there was a line of excited children and parents. Third-grader Logan Carter raked his fingers through his thick blond hair and announced with a grin, “I’m getting a buzz cut.”

He was in line with his 16-year-old sister, Megan, and his mom, Paula Carter.

Carter, a single mom, said the event is “a blessing.”

“Every little bit helps,” she said.

Heritage Park senior health communities decided to team up with the church this summer and provided between 30 and 40 book bags filled with supplies.

Heritage Park was already soliciting donations of backpacks and school supplies from local businesses when they heard about the Faith Baptist project, said Terri Miller, the company’s director of marketing. She contacted Roper and they agreed to combine their efforts.

It was the first time Miller had witnessed the results of the project firsthand and she was clearly impressed.

“It has been a fantastic cumulative and collaborative effort,” Miller said, “Just look at all these families.”

“This church is so instrumental in the neighborhood,” Miller said, “and this just shows that Fort Wayne is willing to help when asked.”

Other businesses supporting the project include DaVita Dialysis, Hoosier Physical Therapy, Parkview Medical Group-Carew, Parkview Hospital, Dr. Sherri Stiles-Walker, D.O. McComb & Sons Funeral Homes, Neighborhood Health Clinics Inc., Crossroads and the VA Medical Center.