One hundred and seventy-five area children left the Carver Community Center on Saturday better prepared for a new school year, new assignments and new projects.
Because of a two-year county and state-funded grant, donations by local retailers and the helping hands of two area organizations, Schenectady children of all ages received a free backpack full of school supplies and as much cotton candy, hamburgers, hot dogs and snow cones as they could eat Saturday afternoon.
The second annual Family Fun Day event, hosted by the Hamilton Hill Resource Center and Northeast Parent & Child Society, was a success by all accounts, said resource center Program Director Matthew Pinto.
“Most of the families that come here are the families that are really struggling economically,” he said. “They don’t have any supplies for their kids at all. And so we gave away 175 backpacks, we gave them all away. We probably could have given away a lot more too. There were people who just kept coming and coming.”
In fact, a handful of families continued to show up well after all the supplies were gone, about 45 minutes before the event’s end.
Pinto said families with anywhere from one child to seven or eight children turned out to receive a backpack loaded with two notebooks, folders, a ruler, scissors, pens, pencils, erasers, crayons and colored pencils.
“I would say most of the families who came were very appreciative,” Pinto said. “And they’re most of the families that have come through the resource center, whether they’re kids in need of counseling, or here for therapeutic care, foster care, residential care. Families come in right off the street.”
The Hamilton Hill Resource Center is funded by a grant that allows it to operate from the Carver Community Center. A program director, social services worker and community outreach co-ordinator provide preliminary suicide risk assessments within Schenectady County, and are currently working to renew their funding, which Pinto said runs out in December.
Pinto said he’s unsure if the backpack giveaway and similar events can continue in the future if their funding is not renewed. And area families need the help the center provides, he said.
The Schenectady City School District operated a booth at the event on Craig Street, letting families know what to expect of the upcoming school year.
On the hot, sunny afternoon, it came as no surprise that the free summer fare was a big hit: in total 650 hamburgers, 350 hot dogs, 450 snow cones and hundreds of servings of popcorn and cotton candy were eaten. Children also enjoyed face painting, bubbles, and a DJ who provided live music.
Eugene White, spokesman for the Northeast Parent & Child Society, said it’s nice that the organization is able to join with the Hamilton Hill Resource Center to help local families. The organization serves poverty-stricken children and disenfranchised children in the Capital Region.
“It’s nice to be able to do this for the community and I hope we can do it every year,” White said. “And it’s nice that the community looks to us for things like that.”