For Denise Daniels, a mother of five who lives in Kansas City, Kan., paying for school supplies every year can be tough.
So she was first in line Saturday at the book bag giveaway at Parkwood Park organized by a group of firefighters and police officers in her community.
“Every bit helps,” Daniels said as she and her kids waited in line for bags stuffed with notebook paper, file folders, pencils and crayons. “Even if they give me one pack of paper, it’s a start.”
The book bag giveaway, now in its 17th year, is the largest annual event organized by black firefighters and police officers in Kansas City, Kan., said firefighter Terrance Henderson.
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Saturday’s event had the feel of a block party, with a parade, inflatable play castles for kids and performances by marching bands and drill teams from Washington High School and F.L. Schlagle High School. Firefighters and police officers also gave away smoke detectors and demonstrated CPR.
Each year, about 500 kids get school supplies from the book bag giveaway, Henderson said. The bags are donated by local organizations, including Kansas City Kansas Community College and Rosedale Church.
Many of the paper school supplies collected this year were ruined last week when a pipe burst in the building where they were stored, said Paul Jones, battalion chief at the Kansas City Kansas Fire Department. Jones said the Kansas City, Kansas Parks and Recreation department and local Optimist Club stepped in to replace the ruined supplies.
The gift means a lot to Julia Stone of Kansas City, Kan. She has five kids younger than 11, and she said money has been tight since she lost her job a couple of weeks ago.
The Stones were among dozens of families given school supplies and a free lunch at Saturday’s event, which was attended by Mayor Mark Holland.
“I’ll see you at school,” Holland said in a speech. “Keep up the good work.”
This year’s guest of honor was John Drew, the first black deputy U.S. marshal from the state of Kansas. Drew, 83, was appointed by President John F. Kennedy. Drew led a parade down Quindaro Boulevard in his motorized scooter, decorated with two American flags.
After the parade and book bag giveaway, Parkwood Swimming Pool opened for the afternoon. Admission for kids was a can of food to give to Harvesters, one of the organizations that donated school supplies to the giveaway.
“We like to give back,” Henderson said.