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Back to School event Saturday plans to help hundreds with supplies, more

Barbara Jacket Park on Gilham Circle will be the site Saturday for the Willie Carter Outreach Center’s 21st Annual Back to School event.

The giveaway, set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will be a drive-thru, and organizers are hoping to provide a minimum of 1,200 backpacks filled with school supplies. Children must be in the vehicle with parents in order to receive the items.

Johnny Hulin, executive director of the outreach enter, said the event is typically held at a different location but changed this year due to COVID concerns.

South East Texas Food Bank will be on hand giving out snack packs, and the Southeast Texas Civilian Task Force is providing more than 500 boxes of household items, he said.

After families receive their items, they can leave the cul-de-sac and stay in the inner lane until they arrive at the large baseball diamond, where representatives of New Beginnings Ministry are distributing underwear and socks to school-aged children.

“The goal is to give these items to the kids,” Hulin said, adding this year students are going back to school in person. “We wanted to give them a healthy start to the new school year.”

The Men In Sports Teaching Educating Representing Southeast Tx., or M.I.S.T.E.R.S Civic and Social Club will also be on hand passing out hot dogs and drinks to all children who show up, Hulin said.

Hulin expects a large attendance. In the past 700 to 800 people have attended. Last year, organizers had to think outside of the box due to the pandemic.

“We went to 16 of the Port Arthur ISD campuses and left 100 backpacks with supplies at each campus and they were the ones who gave out those who most needed,” he said.

Hulin received assistance in collecting the items from Motiva, which had a school supply drive with employees and the center had some cash donations come in as well.

The group usually collects more, but some of the supporting civic and social clubs were unable to help this year due to the pandemic.

Another organization, Linda’s Lighthouse, will hold a Back to School event Aug. 7.