ELKHART — Five thousand people lined up to get free school supplies is an impressive sight. That’s what usually happens at Back-2-School Elkhart, a combined backpack and school supply giveaway and health fair event.
Co-founder of the event James Taylor said people won’t have to line up this year. The line, he added, discourages some people from coming. Instead, attendees will take a number and move on to enjoy the live music, kids carnival, and nonprofit information booths stationed nearby at Concord Mall while they are waiting.
“We want to promote conversations between our clients and nonprofits,” Taylor said. “Clients can get their card punched by visiting different information booths, and that card will go into a drawing for prizes.”
He said that he hopes to connect people in need to existing local resources.
“In years past, when we started (Back-2-School Elkhart), the need was huge,” Taylor said. “We aren’t all the way out of the woods with that, but we are in a better place now. We wanted to reflect that in our growth. ... We still want to give things away; however, we want to connect (people) with organizations that are here 365 days a year.”
Another change for this year’s Back-2-School Elkhart event is that organizers are trying to focus more on Elkhart County children. In past years, the event has served children from South Bend, LaPorte and even Michigan.
“Traditionally, we have not turned anyone away,” Taylor said. “This year we are concentrating marketing efforts more on the Elkhart area.”
Taylor also plans to give away fewer items this year.
“We have approximately 2,000 backpacks and 1,000 pairs of shoes,” Taylor said. “That’s first-come, first-served. We want to make it really clear about how much we have.”
The giveaway starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 27, at Concord Mall and will continue until supplies are gone. This year, the health fair will take place on a different day and in a different location. The health fair, which offers free school physicals and immunizations, is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, at Tolson Center.
You can help
The Back-2-School Elkhart team is still collecting donations for this year’s giveaway. A backpack drop is planned for 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, at the information desk in Concord Mall. People interested in donating can bring backpacks and school supplies to this location. Find out more about this year’s Back-2-School Elkhart event at www.back2schoolelkhart.com.