By LINDA M. LINONIS
A collaborative effort sets the stage for a book bag giveaway planned Saturday at the Covelli Centre.
Late Tuesday afternoon at Trinity Fellowship, 4749 South Ave., about 30 volunteers filled book bags with school supplies. They return today to finish the task.
The giveaway, which will distribute some 2,000 book bags, is a joint project of NOW Youngstown, an interfaith outreach effort to promote peace in the city; C.I.R.V. (Community Initiative to Reduce Violence) with Guy Burney, coordinator; and Youngstown City Schools.
Pastors Al Yanno of Metro Assembly of God Church and Rolando Rojas of Spanish Evangelical Church, both in Youngstown, and Pastor Rafael Cruz of Unity Baptist Church organized NOW five years ago.
“The process is as much of a blessing as the event itself,” Pastor Yanno said of the giveaway, an example of partnership among churches, community organizations and businesses. The “cooperation, collaboration and support of community partners” makes the project a success, he added.
The pastor said the giveaway relieves a bit of the financial burden families face when school starts and children need supplies. The giveaway costs about $22,000. School supplies include pencils, pens, folders, notebooks, rulers, glue sticks, erasers and highlighters. The event also features free food, games and music.
In Trinity’s fellowship hall, two rows of five banquet tables each were lined up. At one end, volunteers unzipped the bags as other volunteers picked them up and went down the row to pack with supplies. One row was earmarked for elementary students and the other, junior-senior high students. Clear book bags are for older students.
Stephanie Gordon, a Trinity Fellowship member, coordinated assembly lines, explaining to volunteers the job at hand. She has been involved three years. “I believe this project builds a spiritual bridge between schools and the community,” she said. “We get good support.”
Paris Yanno, daughter of the pastor, and James Leon Hayes, both of Metro Assembly, unzipped colorful book bags with various designs for younger students. They worked quickly to keep bags available as volunteers went through the line.
“This is about giving back to the community,” Hayes said. “It gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling to know it helps people.”
The pastor’s daughter said she “loved being a part of the project” because it serves people.
Tom Davis, a Trinity member, said he has been involved about three years. “This is something God wants us to do – help one another, and this is one way. It gives you a happy feeling to know you’re contributing.”
East High School junior Donna Bennett, 16, who attends Victory Christian Center in Coitsville, said this was her first time as a volunteer, and she learned about the project at church. “It’s a nice way to help the community,” she said.
Linda Genova, a member of Highway Tabernacle Church in Austintown, said she sees the project “as a good way to give students a positive start in the new school year.” She was accompanied by her granddaughter, Olivia Davies, 7, who helped carry filled book bags from tables to designated areas. “I want to show her about helping people and hope it carries through her life.”
David Seifert, a Trinity member, was there with his family. “This shows a heart of giving,” he said, adding he wanted his son, Luke, 15, to see people engaged in helping others and be part of it. His wife, Debbie, a teacher in Boardman schools, said the family has volunteered at Increase the Peace rallies. “As a teacher, I see how excited kids are about the new year and having their supplies.”