Jul. 26—Fifty percent of Indiana children under the age of 6 live in low-income households, according to data gathered by the National Center for Children in Poverty. This low income contributes to rising difficulties in dealing with food insecurity, keeping clothes that fit and as summer comes to an end: struggling to purchase back to school supplies.
Thousands of children gathered Saturday in Lebanon Memorial Park for Freedom Church's annual Serve Day, where the church gave away free backpacks and school supplies, gift cards, clothes, shoes, free haircuts, free admission to Seashore Water Park, access to food and other local resources.
Associate Pastor Amber Rust oversees the event, partnering with anyone that she can in order to make the event all-encompassing. She partnered with venders, staffing agencies that have employment opportunities, as well as many volunteers who donated time and money.
"It's literally like a one-stop shop for everything back to school," Rust said. "We try to create an environment that people don't have to carry shame, that kids are excited to go [back to school]. They don't have to feel the burden of their parents who maybe can't provide for them. But it's a fun event and they don't know any different; they're gonna get school stuff and they're gonna have fun while they go."
This is the fourth time Freedom Church has put on this event, partnering directly with schools with the aim to get rid of everything that is donated to them so it goes to people in need. More than 3,000 Boone County students qualify for free and reduced lunches. And while that's their bracket, Rust explained that many parents are dual income and are just barely not able to receive free and reduced lunch, so the need is greater than the numbers imply.
"We do not have those guidelines, so anytime we go out the community we hope to come back bankrupt," Rust said. "We don't want to bring anything back with us, and we'll give it away until it's gone. We don't require IDs, we don't require anything like that. We just do a good base system that they are Boone County residents, so they have a genuine need."
It's not just adults that are involved in helping, but other children as well. Ten-year-old Eden Wells volunteered to help with giving away school supplies.
"[My favorite part] was probably getting to walk around and see what everybody's doing and watching everybody serve," Wells said. "[This] is a way of showing God that you love him."
Rust added, "The partners and the neighbors of Boone County are always so generous. It's just such a good opportunity to see unity come alive within our county."