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Back-to-school giveaway packed with caring

Church, community come together to give kids haircuts, backpacks
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Around 200 students are headed back to school in style this week thanks to a backpack and haircut giveaway held Sunday at Grace Christian Fellowship. A line formed at 8 a.m., an hour before the doors opened, as parents and students waited to get a hold of backpacks stocked with school supplies and free haircuts from the staff at Visions Salon. Inside, instead of holding their normal Sunday morning service, the members of the small congregation were making final preparations for the event, which included food and entertainment by illusionist Bernard Bradshaw. By the time the giveaway ended at noon, 200 backpacks were given away to needy children and nearly 200 kids received haircuts. Church member Charlynn Francabandera made the suggestion at a church leadership meeting that handing out free backpacks to needy children in the community might be something worthy of consideration. Pastor Darren Bills and his wife, Julie, were sold on the idea instantly. They decided to buy 50 backpacks, and breakfast and some entertainment for the kids. The idea of finding some local hair stylists to offer free hair cuts for the kids was added, with little idea of how to pull that part off. After publicizing the event in the newspaper, several more individuals and businesses came forward to help. The church was contacted by several other local church leaders who wanted to donate to the project. Soon, the number of backpacks grew to 100, then 135 and finally 200 backpacks. The Elm Street Starbucks donated coffee, Grocery Outlet donated food and other items, and finally, Visions Salon provided the haircuts. Pastor Darren Bills suggested this was something that just had to be done again next year. ~ Staff report