For the first time ever, Lehigh Community Services held a Backpack Bonanza at the Microtel Inn and Suites in Lehigh Acres and hundreds turned out, not only to receive new backpacks, sneakers, and school supplies, but to enjoy a host of other events, all scheduled for the children and their parents.
"The Microtel was fully packed," said LCS Director Rae Nicely, who along with volunteers set up the program." In the past the backpacks and school supply giveaway was held at the Community Services office on Plaza Drive, but limited space caused crowding and besides, Nicely wanted to enhance the program for the enjoyment of the parents and children who came.
Not only did the families, who had registered before, receive a backpack and school supplies and certificates for sneakers at Walmart, there was a host of people offering all types of services from getting a free hair cut before returning to school, to face painting, drawing crafts, getting free smoothies, and free blood pressure checks. Wells Fargo was passing out free stuffed animals. Others were giving away all sorts of things.
Tomas Lopez, 14, of Lehigh Acres, gets a free haircut from Marisa Hathaway from Studio G Hair Salon.
The event took place in the large community meeting room and it was packed from 2 to 4 p.m.
Nicely said 330 families had qualified to receive free school supplies. She said it was somewhat less than last year, but expected more to come for supplies before the mid-day Backpack Bonanza ended.
She said families and children were standing in line at noon, two hours before the event even began.
Members of the Lehigh Fire Department were on hand to give free blood pressure checks, using their newest equipment in the process.
At a certain point after thunder was heard, the long line of families were brought into the building to prevent any storm injuries. The people filled the lobby of the Microtel.
Nicely, whose planning went off like a fun summer event, allowed a few people at a time to enter into the big community room, to get their free school supplies and to enjoy other events.
She said she didn't know if the event next year would be at the hotel, not until the program was assessed by her and her volunteers.
Those who sponsored the events in different ways included Arts of the Inland - Patterson, New Life Assembly, Lehigh fire Dept. Face painting by Lehigh Community Services, Riverdale Dentistry, Family Health Centers, Florida Highway Patrol, State Farm Insurance, Florida Department of Transportation, Studio G, the Kiwanis Thrift Shop, Wells Fargo, Lehigh Acres Christian Church, Lehigh Acres Church of the Nazarene, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, and Cajuol restaurant, and others.
Nicely said that even though 330 families signed up, there were others who also have requested help.
"We had 500 last year when it all ended. This year, we have supplies for the 330 or so and there may be many more and they were welcome to come although the backpacks and sneakers may have run out.
"We still had plenty of school supplies to give away," Nicely said. She thanked all those in the community who helped to make the event possible.