PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD) — When it comes to back-to-school shopping, many parents would say it’s best to get an early start.
But recognizing that supplies such as backpacks, paper, notebooks, pens, and pencils can become a financial hassle, Heartland Health Services is stepping in to help.
“We partnered with a lot of community-based organizations to fill a need that we saw in the community,” Makinze Roman, Community engagement Coordinator with Heartland Health Services, said. “Number one, school is almost here again, so we wanted to be able to give back to the community.”
Roman said this led to Friday’s inaugural Dr. Hearty’s Back 2 School Bash at 19 Olt Avenue in Pekin. It’s an event with the goal of giving out 200 backpacks filled with school supplies to those in the community.
She said the supplies backpacks were sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield and included notebooks, folders, rulers, erasers, pens, and pencils. She said after the chaos of 2020, and with many students coming off of virtual learning, they wanted to help take any additional stress off of families.
“We wanted to be able to make the school supplies accessible for everyone,” Roman said. “COVID really hit a lot of families and a number of different ways where we wanted to make sure that everybody was able to get a backpack, be able to get the supplies that they needed to be successful for their school year this year.”
The event also included activities for children, including a bouncy house. Parents who came out with their children said they appreciated the extra support from local agencies.
“It definitely takes a village to raise a child, like they say, so when it’s a lot of community support it’s really great,” Heather Hackman, a parent in Pekin, said.
Hackman said she’s also a foster parent and there are 10 children in her household. She said the supplies will for sure help take the weight off of her shoulders when it comes time to shopping for future supplies.
“It’s definitely convenient for me,” Hackman said. “Taking this many kids shopping for school supplies is pretty crazy. So being able to get a bit of a head start on it, see what we have, and then you just got to go fill in the rest that you need for them is very helpful.”
Roman said the event also doubled as a health fair where people could learn about all the resources offered by Child and Family Connections #14, the Tazewell County Health Department, the Tazewell County Resource Center, The Center for Youth & Family Solutions, AETNA, Head Start, and more.
She said she hopes they can continue holding this event up until school starts and eventually make it an annual event.