Durham Rescue Mission gives away 3,000 backpacks full of school supplies

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Thousands of parents in Durham won’t have to worry about filling their children’s backpacks with adequate supplies.

For the sixteenth year, the Durham Rescue Mission held its back-to-school party with a giveaway of 3,000 backpacks, 8,000 hot dogs, and 850 pounds of barbecue.

Preparation for the event got underway around 5 p.m. on Tuesday so that it could begin around 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The party didn’t just feature lots of filled-up backpacks, barbecue and hot dogs — volunteers also worked to put together 1,800 bags of groceries to give away, hung over over 12,000 articles of clothing, and cut and wrapped desserts for the big meal.

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The event also featured an inflatable slide, snow cones, balloons and carnival games with prizes for the kids.

Beginning at 10 a.m. and occurring every 30 minutes, Dr. Ernie Mills, the CEO and founder of the Mission, held drawings for $50 of toys for the children in attendance.

“This community event is a necessity in this economy. Many families are just one paycheck away from being homeless. Our Back-to-School Pep Rally is a blessing to many families in the Triangle who are struggling,” said Mills. “Our goal, as always, is to provide children with the tools they need to get excited about going back to school, all of which is possible because of our generous sponsors and tireless volunteers.”

Evolet Rivera, 5, is heading to the classroom in a few weeks and said she’s pretty clear on what lies ahead for her first day of kindergarten. Evolet told CBS North Carolina’s Beairshelle Edmé that “school’s always fun!”

Her mom, Ashley, said she’s nervous to let her little girl go, but she’s also excited that she’ll have everything she needs for school on the first day.

“It’s been very hard right now,” Rivera explained. “I’m not working so it’s been very difficult to get her everything she needs for school.”

Over the last decade, the Mission has depended on the generosity of the community and local businesses to help pull together the event.

Partners in the event include GlaxoSmithKline, BB&T, Diamond Springs, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, and many individuals and other organizations.

Alvin Coleman with GSK, a long-time partner of the back-to-school bash, has stuffed backpacks since 2001, when the event first launched.

“It’s the kids, it really is the kids, this is the fundamental — having the materials you need to have an education is fundamental to having opportunities,” said Coleman.

Mills said he couldn’t agree more and that’s why he has no plans of stopping any time soon.

“I’m 72 years old and they say why don’t I retire, and I say, ‘You mean quit doing what I love doing more than anything else. Why should I do that?’ I love doing this,” he said.

The Mills family said they will keep pressing on and doing the event so that boys and girls like Evolet are always prepared for success.

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