By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Many parents summed up Saturday’s back-to-school event Saturday with one word – blessing.
The United Way of Northeast Mississippi sponsored Saturday’s Back 2 School Resource Fair at the BancorpSouth Arena, which gave out free school supplies to about 4,000 children.
Sharon Johnson, a single mother of three children, said preparing for back-to-school time is about as challenging as keeping cool during the Mississippi summer. School supply lists are endless and expensive, and add that to having to buy shoes, clothes, underwear and other items needed to start the new school year.
Johnson said it’s a feat that’s almost too much for two parents to handle, let alone a single one. She said her stress level went down after registering to receive free school supplies, haircuts, health screenings and other back-to-school freebies.
“This is truly a blessing to see the people of Tupelo giving this way to parents who need this help,” said Johnson. “I didn’t know how I’d get everything done but this answers my prayers.”
Lines started to form in front of the arena an hour before the event started. More than 40 groups participated in the event and provided services to the children like vaccinations and haircuts.
Normally a Saturday is the busiest day of the week for barber Kevin Ray of Crispy Cutts. He rescheduled his regular customers, which provide the bulk of his paycheck, and gave free haircuts at the fair.
“I’m helping,” Ray said. “I am helping the families in our community get ready for school and that’s more important right now than money. You can’t put a price on that.”
Melissa McBride took advantage of the free haircuts for her 8-year-old son.
“I know the sacrifice these men are making for our kids today and it means more to me than they will know,” said McBride. “Something as simple as a haircut can make a child’s week go so much better. This is just a blessing that we have people who band together like this.”
Melinda Tidwell, executive director of the United Way of Northeast Mississippi, estimated between 6,000 to 8,000 people attended Saturday.
“This has taken weeks of planning and several volunteers to make it happen but we think it was a success,” Tidwell said. “We really helped a lot of families. The community really stepped up and donated a lot of things to make this possible.”