MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

August 4, 2012

Church’s back-to-school party mixes fun with faith

— FORT GIBSON – Pastor Danny Gandara was all smiles Saturday afternoon as he welcomed people to First Baptist Church’s first Back to School Bash.

“I just want to thank you all for coming out,” Gandara told the crowd in the packed sanctuary. “This is a tremendous blessing for us, to see all of you here.”

About 400 people showed up to receive free school supplies, get a haircut, have their nails painted, eat some popcorn or play on inflatables.

Teka Stephens, who coordinated the event, said the church had packed about 400 bags for the students.

“We tried to pick things that we thought would help the parents,” she said. “We tried to get a couple of the higher-priced items; that way they could get the cheaper things themselves. It’s a gift. It was challenging to prepare for, but it was fun.”

There was a lot of interaction between attendees and event volunteers. As soon as someone walked in and sat down, he or she was greeted and briefed on the details of the event. For those who spoke only Spanish, there was an interpreter.

Sabrina Deber said she brought her six daughters from Woodall because it’s impossible for her to afford supplies for all of them.

“I think this is great,” Deber said. “It would cost me $450 to $500 to get school supplies for all of my kids.”

One of her daughters, Ravin Ragsdale, said she was excited to go back to school, and then chimed in with her views on education.

“School is important because you get an education,” she said. Ravin, who is going into fifth grade, added: “It provides a future for you. Every kid should go to school, no matter what.”

She wasn’t alone in her excitement. As future third-graders walked into the room to pick up their school supplies, they smiled frequently and talked loudly with their classmates and friends.

Gandara said the church changed its normal annual block party in response to what members saw as a need in the community.

“Our heart is to give,” he said. “We have money in our budget set aside for this, and we’ve actually had people in our church invest in supplies and bring them. If we had given 20 bags, it would have been worth it. The heart of God is to give. We want to have the same heart as God.”

Stephens said that it would have been impossible to do without all the help she received.

Deber just wanted to make sure the church knew how thankful she was for the help.

“Thank you so much,” she said. “I don’t know what we’d have done without it. I’m thankful for the people who can do this, for helping those of us who can’t.”

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