St. John school supply giveaway plans to reach hundreds

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, July 20, 2016

LAPLACE — The LaPlace-based non-profit Blessed To Be A Blessing is holding its backpack giveaway just in time for the new school year.

The event will take place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. July 30 at the St. John Community Center, 2900 U.S. 51 in LaPlace.

The group has undertaken the effort for several years, which continues to grow. Prior to the 2015-16 school year, Blessed To Be A Blessing gave out 500 backpacks filled with school supplies and personal hygiene products.

The group upped its goal this year to provide 775 backpacks to schoolchildren across St. John the Baptist Parish.

With nearly 17 percent of the St. John’s population, around 7,000 people, living at or below the poverty line, the service provided by Blessed To Be A Blessing is certainly in need.

Blessed To Be A Blessing President Eliza Eugene said she knows that need first hand.

“My mother was a single parent; I grew up right here in Reserve public housing,” Eugene said. “I know the impact that these backpack supplies and hygiene kits will have on the bottom line of a parent that is a single parent making minimum wages. They are in these lines because the majority of the people need help.”

This year Marathon and the United Way of St. John combined for nearly $20,000 in donations to buy school supplies for the children being served by Eugene’s non-profit.

“I must say that this event would not be possible without our partners and our partners that have financially supported this,” Eugene said.

A long list of other businesses, community members and sectors or local government also pitched in with smaller donations to fund the event.

“By coming together and showing not what we can do as one, but as a community, I think it is a blessing because it speaks volumes and I am just happy to be a part of it,” Eugene said.

Not only will Blessed To Be A Blessing’s backpack giveaway provide material support to children, but those attending will also be given access to health and human services and allowed the opportunity to donate blood.

“I just want to say to all of the works and everyone, it is tremendous they are able to do this,” St. John Parish Councilman Lennix Madere said. “I have been on the Council four and a half years and every year you’ve gotten bigger and bigger. Any little thing like this can help a whole lot.”

Madere said while students may not be looking forward to the end of summer recess, receiving such support from the community helps them get ready for another academic year.

“The bag represents school is back to them, so they’ll be happy to get the bag and also know what is coming after that,” Madere said.

While the event is now less than two weeks away, Eugene said the group is still seeking help.

“We need lots of volunteers,” Eugene said. “Anyone that may have a tent, we welcome you to come out there. It is truly going to be a blessing because as you all know the heat has really been a problem over the years.”

In addition, those wishing to donate supplies can reach Eugene via phone at 985-359-9954. The event is run first-come, first-serve; pre-registration is not available.

— By Kyle Barnett