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900 free backpacks, school supplies ready for St. John families

LAPLACE — Blessed to Be a Blessing founder Eliza Eugene remembers her experiences growing up in a single parent household in Reserve.

Eugene recalls her mother working hard but struggling to financially provide for her family. She vividly remembers the altruistic organizations that helped her family navigate the low points, and she believes to whom much is given, much is required.

For the past 13 years, Eugene has hosted the Blessed to Be a Blessing Backpack Extravaganza, a one-stop shop for free backpacks, school supplies and hygiene kits aimed to give St. John the Baptist Parish children a healthy start to the school year.

This year’s Extravaganza takes place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. July 21 at New Wine Christian Fellowship, located at 1929 W. Airline Highway in LaPlace.

Previous events have been held at the St. John Parish Community Center.

“I was the recipient of an organization that assisted in getting school supplies for me,” Eugene said. “I understand the impact of the cost of educating just one child, and I want to be a person who never forgets where I came from and the many people who helped me along the way.”

Eugene was inspired to start the Extravaganza after participating in the annual St. Charles United Way school supply giveaway, which will be held this year from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 4 in Luling.

Wanting to give back to her St. John community, Eugene collected school supplies, dispersing 300 to local children during the first Blessed to Be a Blessing event.

Marathon Petroleum noticed her efforts and volunteered to donate supplies. Over the years, the event has grown to encompass several sponsors and more than 30 onsite vendors.

This year, backpacks and supplies will be gifted to the first 900 children who are present with a parent or guardian and able to show proof of residency in St. John Parish through a state issued photo ID or utility bill.

According to Eugene, school supplies include pencils, pens, papers, calculators and items geared toward specific age groups.

“Every kit is not the same. It’s for elementary, middle school and high school based on the supply lists from St. John Parish,” Eugene said. “All backpacks are mesh because that’s what is required by the schools.”

According to Eugene, local businesses and agencies are providing free snacks, health screenings and vouchers for haircuts.

Rising nonprofit PinkNailsENT is partnering with Blessed to Be a Blessing to distribute supplies and hygiene kits, which include a toothbrush, comb, shampoo, conditioner and soap.

Coordinator Jasmine Spear said PinkNailsENT involves young girls in community service, mentorship and disaster relief.

“Any opportunity to do community service is a blessing, and it allows girls in our mentorship to focus on helping others,” Spear said.

For more information, call 985-359-9954 or email info@pinknailsent.org.