Yadira Carvajal collects three backpacks for her children during the San Joaquin County Department Of Child Support Services' 8th Annual Block Party in Stockton on Saturday. The event, which featured 67 booths offering a range of activities and information, distributed 910 backpacks to kids preparing to return to school this week. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)
Parents and guardians of children had the opportunity to register in advance for their child or children to receive a backpack filled with school supplies. Reservations were available for 860 backpacks during the July 29 event, with another 50 set aside for walk-ups, said Kathleen Bohacek, assistant director with the Department of Child Support Services.
The event started in 2015 as a collaboration between some of the department’s staff, with some vendors and approximately 100 people in attendance.
The 8th Annual Block Party had 67 vendors and community agencies providing children with free supplies and fun activities between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Ashley Bowling, a Stockton mother, came out to the event with her three daughters, ages 3, 5 and 8. “There’s good music here, and it really helps when you’re out here with kids in the sun,” Bowling said.
Bowling said that as she waited in the line earlier in the day to collect backpacks for her daughters, the organizers checked with everyone in the line and gave out cold water from water coolers. “It showed that they were really thinking about us and doing this for us,” Bowling said.
Also at the event was San Joaquin County Public Library’s Training Wheels, an early literacy vehicle that usually travels to preschools and day care centers in the county with a special storytime. Parents, guardians and children got to walk around the vehicle and take books of their liking.
“My daughter loves reading, and I’m excited to read with her the books she picked up today,” said Vivian Plasencia, who recently moved to Stockton from Oakland with her three children.
According to Bohacek, the department newly received additional funds and is starting a waitlist for those who were unable to get backpacks at the Saturday block party.
Harika Maddala is a photojournalist based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. They are a Report for America corps member and a CatchLight Local Fellow.