By Traci Chapman
The Big Give, now in its eighth year, returns to help Mustang students go back to school prepared – thanks to a partnership spearheaded by Clear Springs Church.
Scheduled for July 30, this year’s event is expected to provide 500 area children and youth with backpacks, school supplies, clothes, haircuts and more, Clear Springs Pastor Jim Harris said. That number reflects a need in the community that has increased by the year – the church gave out 265 backpacks with supplies in 2015, so organizers ordered enough for 288; those were gone in the first hour of the 2016 event, the pastor said.
“We quickly regrouped and began a list of those who missed out – those families stuck around and participated in the other events and we promised to order more materials for them,” Harris said. “We placed a follow up order the following day.”
Within about 10 days, all the families had received packs and supplies for their students, he said.
The Big Give will repeat all of that and more on Sunday, Harris said – but organizers will be ready for the kind of demand they saw last year.
“Last year’s growing pains stretched us – while we ultimately came up with a way to supply the overflow crowd by placing an emergency order and having the additional packs ready one week later, we hated the fact that some families came on our big day and left empty handed due to the overflow crowd,” he said. “We hated turning anyone away, even for what turned out to be a one week’s inconvenience before we got the reserve supplies.”
Organizers therefore developed a pre-registration system, which guarantees backpacks and supplies for the first 500 students signed up by the time of the event.
“One week out, we’ve had families pre-register over 350 students,” Harris said. “I fully expect us to give away all 500 backpacks – it’s quite possible that we’ll have all 500 accounted for entirely through pre-registration.”
The Big Give came about after church officials and members saw there was an unmet need in the community, that some students’ families were having a difficult time paying for school supplies and the backpacks needed to carry them. Families are chosen on the recommendation of school counselors and administrators who are familiar with their individual circumstances, Harris said.
While supplies and backpacks filled a need, other things also helped students heading to school in just a few weeks, the pastor said.
“Six community hairstylists provided 95 haircuts in three hours (last year), about $1,500 worth of haircuts given away,” Harris said. “The Hub partnered with our church for clothing distribution – as a result, each child had the opportunity to take home at least one back-to-school outfit.”
Mustang Police Department also had officers on hand, handing out Ident-A-Kid kits and talking to students and their families, while the church partnered with Gary E. Miller Canadian County Children’s Justice Center to provide popcorn. Members set up bounce houses and offered pizza and drinks.
“We contracted with Cotton Eyed Joes to give out snow cones – 879 of them – and they used all the ice they had in the truck,” Harris said. “All of that helped ease the wait for haircuts or moms picking out an outfit for their kids.”
The Big Give is made possible, first and foremost, by members of Clear Springs’ congregation, this year joined by volunteers and a financial investment from Lakehoma Church of Christ; Extreme Church donated bounce houses, while Hair Razzors stylists provide haircuts.
“I love the fact that this event now features multiple churches coming together to serve our community as one,” Harris said.
While some businesses have donated supplies, funding and more, organizers could still use help with funds to purchase pizza and to help pay other expenses, donations that are tax-deductible, Harris said. Any licensed stylists who would like to help are also welcome, he said.
“Anyone who wants to donate, volunteer or help in any way can go on our website, www.clearsprings.org, or call 376-0921 and let us know,” the pastor said. “If anyone knows of a family that could use this assistance, please encourage them to go to our church website and pre-register.
“When we hit 500 pre-registered students, we’ll be at capacity and we’ll pull down the link to register,” he said.
The Big Give will be held from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. and will follow a designated schedule:
2 p.m. – 3 p.m. – Pre-Registered Last Names A-L
3 p.m. – 4 p.m. – Pre-Registered Last Names M-Z
4 p.m. – 5 p.m. – Anyone who hasn’t pre-registered can register onsite and participate until supplies are gone.
Clear Springs Church is located at 921 N. Clear Springs Road in Mustang.
“It really is a blast to give back to our community and play a part in making life a little better for others,” Harris said. “For our Clear Springs Church family, it’s simply another way for us to live out our mission of building a lasting faith in Christ by serving.”