Lancaster County students get boost to start school

A number of faith communities, organizations and businesses in Lancaster County joined Saturday, July 31, for their fifth annual Back to School Bash.

This year more than 600 students in grades 5K to 12 were given new shoes and school supplies to help them as school begins.

The event is a partnership of local churches and community groups across Lancaster County. The core leadership team for the event this year were the Rev. Mallory Nickerson (Belair and Osceola United Methodist churches), the Rev. Joel McMakin (Pleasant Hill UMC), the Rev. Candice Sloan (Hopewell UMC), the Rev. Carson Overstreet (Van Wyck Presbyterian), Mike Barnes (Lancaster County Parks and Recreation) and Anna Simms Jordan (Lancaster County Parks and Recreation).

While work goes on fundraising and organizing all year, the event kicked off Friday, July 30, when volunteers began packing backpacks.

According to data from the South Carolina Department of Education, more than 55 percent of the county’s students live in poverty. In some parts of the county, it is even worse; some elementary schools report 90 percent of students live in poverty.

“Our intent is to take some burden off parents’ shoulders,” Nickerson said. “When we can provide a pair of shoes and school supplies, it relieves some of the pressure to decide how to take care of students’ needs and balance family day-to-day requirements.”

In the past as many as 1,000 students have been served; however, because of COVID concerns, this event was modified and scaled back the past two years. On July 31 it was a modified, in-person Back to School Bash. Shoes were provided, and school supplies in pre-packed backpacks were given away.

“We spend roughly $35-40 on the supplies and shoes for each child,” Nickerson said.

A majority of churches in Lancaster County help in one way or another through volunteers or financial donations, along with many businesses. Residents of Sun City Carolina Lakes have been instrumental in the event, as well.

“As followers of Christ, we are called to love and support our neighbors,” McMakin said. “With the help of all our partners we raised and spent $14K on shoes and $7,100 on backpacks and school supplies.”

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