Education

Free backpacks, school supplies, shoes, for Wichita families in time for school

Photographer Robin Cowell takes a free family portrait during the 2015 Convoy of Hope. Thousands are expected to show up to receive free backpacks, shoes for children, haircuts, family portraits and other services Saturday, Aug. 4.
Photographer Robin Cowell takes a free family portrait during the 2015 Convoy of Hope. Thousands are expected to show up to receive free backpacks, shoes for children, haircuts, family portraits and other services Saturday, Aug. 4. The Wichita Eagle

Wichita families can get free school supplies, shoes, medical screenings, and shots in time for the start of the school year.

On Saturday, Aug. 4, Convoy of Hope Wichita will provide bags of groceries, on-site medical screenings, family portraits, shoes, backpacks, school supplies, immunizations, and haircuts for children — all for free.

Everything offered at the event will be free — including on-site help with resume-writing and job searching, and tents offering social services. Representatives from the Mental Health Association, Kansas Department for Children and Families, Dress for Success, and other organizations will be on hand to offer help.

The event will be held at two locations — McAdams Park, on 13th near I-135, and Bethel Life Center, 3777 S. Meridian. While it officially begins at 10 a.m., people who arrive early will be let in before then, said Stacie Cathcart, executive director of Convoy of Hope Wichita.

No documentation or proof of income is required except for immunization records for children receiving shots on site. Children also must be present to receive their free backpacks and shoes.

The event drew 12,450 people last year, Cathcart said. This time she anticipates 16,000 attendees between the two sites, which will look the same and offer the same services.

To avoid long lines, people will receive a bracelet when they arrive indicating when they should get in line for their free backpacks and shoes.

Thousands of Wichita children and adults braved the rain for free shoes, backpacks, haircuts at the Convoy of Hope in 2016.

Six-thousand backpacks will be given away this year, and goods and services are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Cathcart said supplies typically begin to run out around 1 p.m.

The Convoy of Hope is fully supported by donations, Cathcart said. She estimated that attendees receive around $300 in goods and services that day.

About 2,000 volunteers are needed to make the Convoy of Hope a success, Cathcart said. Anyone interested in volunteering can apply by visiting volunteerkansas.org.

“Every single one of us has struggled at sometime in our life,” Cathcart said.

She said the idea behind the event is to provide a sense of hope to families that might have fallen on hard times.

“We call it a day of hope,” Cathcart said. “Sometimes life is tough and you can find yourself feeling discouraged, feeling a little down and hopeless about how do I put food on the table?

“They leave feeling like they have experienced a little bit of hope — that we believe in them.”

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