As summer winds down, the start of the new school year is just around the corner and two local agencies are teaming up to be a one-stop-shop for nearly everything families will need to head back to school.
The Community Health Center of Fort Dodge and Upper Des Moines Opportunity Inc. will host a Back-to-School Block Party from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the CHC, 126 N. 10th St. The event is free and open to the public.
In previous years, the two organizations had held separate events, but this year they decided to collaborate for the block party.
“It just makes sense for families, community resources and our donors to hold our events together,” said Regina Suhrbier, outreach coordinator for CHC. “With the renovation of our lower level, we were able to offer the space for packing backpacks this year.”
“I think it makes it easier that we aren’t making multiple events that families have to find the time and transportation and be out in the heat for,” added Jamie Johnston, a specialist with UDMO’s Family Development and Self-Sufficiency program.
UDMO is expecting to give away about 300 backpacks filled with school supplies for area families in need of financial assistance. Many of the backpacks and supplies were donated by local individuals, businesses and organizations, Johnston said. UDMO also purchases school supplies when there aren’t enough donations.
This week, volunteers from the Douglas Dreamers 4-H club are helping sort, organize and pack the school supplies and backpacks. The 4-H’ers have volunteered to fill the UDMO backpacks for many years, club leader Linda Cline said. Cline is also the program coordinator and PROSPER team co-leader for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach – Webster County.
“It’s helpful having all of them here,” said Johnston. “It makes it go a little bit quicker when we’re packing.”
The Community Health Center will be offering walk-ins for free well child checks, immunizations, sports physicals and dental exams at the event. Appointments are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., it will be walk-ins only. Registration paperwork can be completed in advance at https://chcpb.as.me.
“At 5 p.m. is when the real party starts,” Suhrbier said. “Over 20 businesses and organizations will be set up with booths of activities. From free socks to spin art and basketball shooting, it will be a fun event for all.”
Health care services will take place inside the CHC building, and the rest of the fun, meal, games, resources and backpacks will be in the parking lot behind the CHC.
The Webster County Pork Producers will be on the grill serving a free meal of pork burgers, beans, chips, a cookie and water.
Mickie Shubin, a prevention supervisor at Community and Family Resources, will be on-hand to talk to parents and caregivers about ways that teens hide substance use.
The Wake Up Call Backpack is filled with everyday items that teens may use to conceal alcohol use, vaping, smoking and drugs. The backpack was assembled by people with lived experience of drug dependence, parents whose child became involved with drugs and alcohol, as well as law enforcement and school administrator input.
UDMO is still accepting applications for families in need of financial assistance for school supplies. Applications are available at UDMO, 1325 First Ave. S. The backpacks at Tuesday’s event are for Webster County students, but UDMO will have applications for similar programs in other counties the agency serves.