Hundreds of families lined up at Ettl Hall behind the Sutter County Museum Friday to attend the 9th annual SonFest Back to School Extravaganza, sponsored by Restoration Center.
“There was a long line when the doors opened at ten-o-clock,” said event coordinator Kyisha Smalling. “A lot of people came early and waited in line.”
Each child in attendance, from preschool through high school, received a free backpack filled with paper, pens, pencils, erasers and various other school supplies donated by local organizations including the Women of Bethel, Raw Cuts, Kiwanis Early Risers, the Sutter County Library Literacy Program, and the Sutter County Museum.
“This event works off of those who donate and the help all of the volunteers,” said Smalling.
More than 400 backpacks were collected for the giveaway event this year, and donations continuied to come in on Friday morning.
Smalling said she and Restoration Center Pastor Ada Terry started the event nine years ago to pay tribute to their fathers who had worked in the ministry together for many years.
“I came to Ada with a dream and she said let’s do it,” said Smalling.
In addition to the school supply giveaway, six vendors were also in attendance to provide information about community resources including Harmony Health, First Five, the Children’s Home Society of California and the Sutter County Library.
“A lot of parents don’t know what resources are out there,” said Smalling.
Gently used clothing was also available for anyone in need of some new clothes to start the school year.
Smalling said past events have also included a barber for free haircuts but the scheduled barber was unable to attend the event this year.
“Its all about the smiles,” said Smalling. “We love seeing the kids faces light up when we hand them their new backpack.”
This annual event is held the first weekend in August each year. Next year will commemorate the event’s 10th year and Smalling said she plans to go big.
“It will be all hands on deck next year!” said Smalling. “I would like to get all of the people that have been involved over the years together again and make it a really big event.”
According to Smalling, the Restoration Center welcomes donations for the event year round. For more information or to make a donation, contact Smalling at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include ATTN: SonFest in the subject line.