BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — It’s back-to-school season but not everyone can afford a new backpack or pencil case, so a local organization is doing something about it.
On Friday, families will have a chance to have some fun and get backpacks stuffed with goodies for their kids at Stay Focused Ministries' free Back 2 School Backpack Festival.
"Times are tough right now. You know, not everybody has the money for a backpack... especially if you have a big household, three or four kids," said executive director Manuel Carrizalez.
Carrizalez said Stay Focused Ministries has been doing back-to-school outreach for 28 years.
“We want to bring smiles, you know, encourage them, [let] them dream again. You know, their visions, their goals... let them know that they can do great things," he said.
The festival is happening August 6 from 1-5 p.m. behind the Stay Focused offices at 1225 California Avenue.
There will be bounce houses, face painting and hair cuts, on top of over 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies and surprise goodies.
There will be speakers to motivate students going back to school, especially after COVID-19. Carrizalez said there has been an uptick in violence during the pandemic.
“It is what it is but through that, we’re trying to shield these students and these kids with a message of hope," he said.
Carrizalez didn’t grow up with many resources. Now he strives to help low-income kids.
“I never forgot where I come from," he said. "I remember there was never nothing for us back in the neighborhood. You know, all we saw was yellow tape and chalk on the ground [and] violence. Because of education, it got me out.”
This event is made possible thanks to community partners, something Carrizalez said is typical for Kern County.
“One thing about Bakersfield, there’s a really, really giving heart in our community [to] partner and reach kids in the neighborhoods. Reaching [really] the lowest, you know, [the] kids that just need a friend," he said.
You can help by dropping donations off during the week ahead of the event at the same address listed above.