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Drive-thru Backpack Extravaganza set for Saturday: 1,000 students to receive free school supplies & hygiene kits

LAPLACE — Eliza Eugene believes firmly that to whom much is given, much is expected.

Eugene benefitted from school supply giveaways as she grew up in public housing with a hard-working single mother. Now blessed with success, Eugene feels obligated to provide for the families in her community, and this year is no exception.

COVID-19 won’t stop the annual Blessed to Be a Blessing Backpack Extravaganza. It will be held in a drive-thru only format this year from 8:30 a.m. until supplies last on Saturday, July 18 at the St. John Community Center, located at 2900 Highway 51 in LaPlace.

Free backpacks, school supplies, hygiene kits and a healthy meal from Subway will be given to the first 1,000 children. Children must be present in the vehicle with a parent or guardian to receive the supplies.

As always, school supplies coordinate with the supply lists from local schools and include paper, pencils, index cards, calculators, folders and composition notebooks, among other classroom necessities.

Blessed to Be a Blessing was recognized at a St. John Parish School Board meeting following the 2019 event. Pictured from left to right are School Board President Patrick Sanders, Paula Henderson, Lois Frank, Eliza Eugene, Stacey Millet, Mala Taylor, Tiffany Murray and Heidi Trosclair.

Hygiene kits contain everyday items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and conditioner. Given this year’s special circumstances, every child will receive hand sanitizer.

Social distancing measures will be in place, and every volunteer on-site will undergo a temperature screening, according to Eugene. Volunteers must wear masks and gloves and follow all CDC guidelines. Louisiana State Police and the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office are assisting in traffic control.

“This event is the one event that unites our entire community,” Eugene said. “Nonprofit, government, industry, small businesses, corporations and a community that cares come together for our kids. I do believe that together we are making a difference.”

While the Backpack Extravaganza can’t service every child in the parish, Eugene feels blessed to be able to reach 1,000 children. In previous years, families have lined up outside the St. John Community Center doors as early as 5:30 a.m., hours before supplies are given out.

Eugene hopes this event will bring back a sense of normalcy for the children that look forward to it every year.

“I hope that having this event can inspire them to become excited again about going back to school and wanting to learn. That is our desire, to equip them with some of the tools they need to succeed, even in these difficult times. The need is still there. We hope this is one of those familiar activities that can get the kids to look forward to what’s ahead,” she said.

Blessed to Be a Blessing Board member Lois Frank distributes backpacks during a previous school supply giveaway.

Eugene asks everyone to continue doing what they can to support parents, teachers and other community members during this difficult time. She said a little love goes a long way when it gives a person hope in the face of depression, anxiety and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.

For more information about Saturday’s Backpack Extravaganza, please call Blessed to Be a Blessing founder Eliza Eugene at 504-451-4712.

Sponsors

St. John United Way and Eliza Eugene Enterprises are the title sponsors of this event. Also making this day possible are Cargill, Marathon Petroleum Company LP, Walmart, St. John Parish administration, the St. John the Baptist Parish Council, the St. John District Attorney’s Office, the St. John Parish Assessor’s Office, Louisiana State Police, the River Region Chamber of Commerce, Entergy, the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Phi Iota Iota Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools, Total Choice Federal Credit Union, Greenup Industries, Regions Bank, State Farm James Wagner Jr., Pannu Enterprises, GRACE, Louisiana Federal Credit Union, State Representative Randall Gaines, Raising Cane’s and Metro Service Group.

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