2,000 more backpacks given away at second Manatee back-to-school event

Students head back to class in just a few weeks, but the record-high inflation makes getting all the necessary supplies difficult. 

Cars lined up by the hundreds for a back-to-school giveaway Wednesday in Manatee County. The summer's first giveaway event got such a massive response, organizers had to plan a second one fast.

Three weeks ago, MCR Health held their Back to School Bash at Bradenton's Bishop Museum where they gave out 1,275 backpacks. The line stretched around the building, and the response was simply overwhelming. They quickly pulled together round two: a drive-up event at the Bradenton Area Convention Center with 2,000 more free backpacks and supplies.

"We already have a thousand people in line right now, and we are clocking at six seconds a car," said Scott Works, MCR Health's Sr. director of marketing/communications/patient experience.

The line of cars snaked through the parking lot and out to the road, some arriving more than three hours early.

"I had a lady that showed up today at 2:00," Works said. "She and her two children walked two miles to get here, just to get the backpack. We have to make sure we are taking care of those kids. And so many of these kids are going back to school and don't have the necessary needs met."

Filling a bookbag isn't cheap. Despite inflation reaching a 40-year high at 9.1%, the National Retail Federation estimates U.S. shoppers will still spend $37 billion on back-to-school shopping, matching 2021's record high. Average spending per household is expected to be about $860.

"Right now, it's like there is so much going on with gas prices up and then the economy, so it's a big help for us," said Valeria Najera. "We are very happy and grateful for what MCR is doing for us."

Efforts like these are packed with lessons in community, compassion, patience, and gratitude. A full backpack on a child's shoulders can take a huge weight off their parents'.

"Seeing the faces of those kids as they dig into the backpacks and see all those supplies, and the parents' reassured and smiling and happy faces, it makes it all worthwhile," Works said.

Over the past seven years, MCR Health and its employees have collected over 10,000 pounds of supplies for Title I schools in the communities they serve.