Fresno students line up to get free school supplies

August 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Over a thousand kids got free backpacks and school supplies Friday at Eaton Plaza.

Action News teamed up with the United Way and many other local organizations for back-to-school night. It was the third year of the backpack giveaway. But this year more than ever many kids went home empty handed.

Organizers say it's the case every year, but this year was the most they have had to turn away, an estimated 800 kids left without backpacks. They say it is a testament to the growing number of needy families in the community.

It's like Black Friday in the middle of summer. The lines wrapped around Eaton Plaza and people waited to get much needed back-to-school supplies.

"I" ve been here since 11 O'clock!" Grandmother Nickie Haynes said.

Nichole Medina got in line just two hours after Haynes. While dad scrapes to make a living, the stay-at home mom brought her six kids, ready to start the school year.

"Ninth grade, 7th grade, 5th grade, 3rd grade, 1st grade and kindergarten," Medina said. "They all need backpacks, yes."

And so did all the families that lined up behind her.

"Many of these kids here don't have the resources the families are trying to decide, should we buy backpacks or food." Michael Alexander with the United Way said.

Organizers say the community need is so great that crowds got heated last year as free supplies thinned. Hence the barricades and security guards that were at the event to keep the crowds in control.

Volunteers gave the first 1,200 boys and girls wristbands, it guaranteed them a backpack. The Medina's got there's but nearly half of the line had to be sent home, an estimated 800 disappointed children and their parents.

"It's always tough when you get to the last one and you see that little kid that says I need a backpack, " Alexander said.

But to contrast the disappointed faces 1,200 smiling ones. At least six of those smiles were from the Medina family, even after waiting six hours for supplies that so many take for granted.

"We're struggling so this helps a lot," Medina said.

If your child is really in need of a backpack but couldn't get one call the United Way and they will try to help you. They also say because of the growing need in the community, they are shooting to double the number of free backpacks next year.

That all depends on donations the United Way receives, so they are asking the community to step up.


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