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Bethel AME Church gives kids new backpacks

Jayda Barker, 5, and Kaiden Barker, 3, show

Jayda Barker, 5, and Kaiden Barker, 3, show off their new backpacks at the Bethel A.M.E. Church of Copiague backpack giveaway. (Aug. 26, 2012) Credit: Alexi Knock

More than 150 children anxiously waited in line outside Bethel A.M.E. Church of Copiague on Sunday to receive free backpacks filled with school supplies for the new school year.

“There’s a need in this community to get the youth these supplies so this is a way to empower them for the upcoming school year,” said Anita Rickenbacker, a member of Bethel A.M.E and an organizer of the giveaway.

More than a dozen members of the church and local businesses donated enough money and supplies to fill over 200 brand new backpacks for children in the church and neighborhood.

Although the event has been held several times in the past decade, this year’s giveaway was the most financially successful, said Pastor Keith Hayward.

Mercedes-Benz of Amityville donated $500 to go toward the backpacks for the children. McDonald’s of Amityville also donated more than $100 for the cause.

“Things like this really let the children know that there are role models out there that they can look up to,” said Rickenbacker.

The event took place after the 10 a.m. service and included hot dogs, drinks and several vendors.

“We’re trying to be a place of hope, direction and resources for the community,” said Rev. Keith Hayward, the church’s pastor. “We have to do our part to serve, raise and nurture these children.”

Church members and their children enjoyed the barbecue as they looked through their new backpacks.

“My granddaughter is starting kindergarten in the fall and this gives her a chance to mingle with all the other kids as well as learn something,” said David Barker, 55, of Amityville. “It shows the support of the community and that they care and provide for us. More churches should do this.”

In addition to receiving backpacks, the children will get a chance to sign up for bank accounts next week at Bethpage Federal Credit Union. The church agreed to donate $1 to the account for every $10 the child saves.

“There are too many children who are underachievers and it’s important for us to play the role of encouragement,” Hayward said.

Shirley Handy, a church member who donated school supplies to the event, said she feels the giveaway is a good learning experience for the children.

“The pastor has done a great job because a lot of churches preach to us, but he teaches us,” said Handy. “We want to be more of a teaching institution.”

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