Urban Mission school bash to expand

STEUBENVILLE – As August approaches, so, too, does the start of a new school year and with it, the need to help area students get off to a good start.

Enter Urban Mission Ministries at 301 N. Fifth St., which traditionally has held its own Back-To-School Bash but is taking on an expanded role to host the bash that in past years has unfolded at Harding Stadium.

This year, the event that will encompass Steubenville City Schools and the surrounding areas will be held in the vicinity of the mission between North Fifth and Sixth streets from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 14, according to Lisa Thomas of the mission and event coordinator.

The Back-To-School Bash is being sponsored by the mission’s Neighborhood Community Development Center, directed by Cynthia Smith, with assistance from community donors.

“Urban Mission has always had its own back-to-school rally, but this year, we’re taking on an expanded role because it is replacing what traditionally had been organized at Harding Stadium by other organizations,” Thomas explained.

The event will feature a block party atmosphere complete with food provided by National Cash Advance, fun and games, music by a disc jockey, school supplies and backpacks. Students must be present to pick up school supplies and backpacks, Thomas noted.

A key contributor to making the bash successful is Huntington Bank, which is providing bookbags, according to Thomas.

“They, too, are taking a larger role, given it’s an expanded effort by the mission,” Thomas said.

Huntington is happy to help, according to Lisa Quattrochi, vice president of community development.

For the sixth consecutive year through the bank’s backpack program, needy students can return to the classroom prepared and ready to learn, as the bank is working with Urban Mission to provide area schoolchildren with new backpacks containing school supplies, according to officials.

“As the cost of school supplies continues to rise, purchasing and replenishing school supplies have become increasingly more burdensome. Helping our local families is the absolute right thing to do,” Quattrochi said.

Huntington’s 2014 Back-to-School initiative is part of an annual, six-state program in which more than 100,000 backpacks and supplies have been distributed to children in need over the past five years. Huntington believes that educating today’s youth is a priority, and without the necessary supplies, students face a major disadvantage at school, officials said.

Getting ready for the bash is an effort that has involved individuals, organizations and businesses, including volunteers from Journeys of Service Helping Upper Appalachia who come to the area on mission trips.

“We have the blessing of many community donors helping to make this possible, and we’re thankful for that,” Thomas said, noting the mission is continuing to accept donations of money or specific school supplies.

The bash is expected to attract anywhere from 800 to 1,000 area students in grades kindergarten through 12th.

School supplies in particular demand include colored pencils, looseleaf paper, scissors and children’s writing tablets, according to Thomas, but also appreciated would be backpacks for all age groups, 24-count crayon packs, pocket folders, paper notebooks, rulers, erasers, pencil boxes, ink pens, glue sticks, composition notebooks and markers.

Items can be dropped off at the mission by Aug. 11. Checks can be mailed to the mission with “Back to School” in the memo line.

Thomas said the National Retail Federation expects families with school-age children to spend an average of $635 on clothing, shoes, supplies and necessary electronics in preparation for a new school year.

The Rev. Ashley Steele, executive director of Urban Mission Ministries, said, “We’re excited to be able to do this for another year. We think this is going to be a really fun year and a really good year. We have a lot of things planned for the folks and parents as well as the kids, and I think as always we’re just amazed with the generosity of the community to give back to our kids.”

For information, contact Thomas at the mission by phone at (740) 282-8010 or by e-mail at mail@urbanmission.org.

(Kiaski can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com)