Patterson celebrates end of summer vacation with free books, safety fair

08/08/2014 7:47 PM

08/08/2014 7:48 PM

Patterson Joint Unified School District and the city of Patterson will hold the third annual Back to School Block Party and Safety Fair from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the downtown plaza and, as part of the event, will kick off a new smoking ban for Patterson parks.

The block party will again have free school supplies and books for Patterson students, as well as dozens of prizes donated by local businesses to give away.

“The kids are so excited to get their books. They hug them,” said Katy Kraemer, a community volunteer at last year’s event.

A disc jockey will provide entertainment and games. Principals and teachers from each school will host activity booths, and the Lions Club of Patterson will barbecue hot dogs.

“This event has exceeded our wildest expectations,” noted Superintendent Phil Alfano. “In a district with just over 6,000 students, we had nearly 3,000 students and parents show up last year.”

The safety fair will include free fingerprinting by the Polly Klaas Foundation. The Fire Department will give demonstrations. Free car seats and safety tips for families will be given out by the California Highway Patrol and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.

“It’s a great partnership. We serve the same kids, the same families,” said Mayor Luis Molina.

More than 35 other community service agencies will also be on hand to provide families with resources and information about medical care, behavioral health services, substance abuse counseling and homelessness.

This year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will also be on hand to provide parents with assistance in navigating the process to become a naturalized citizen.

At 11:30 a.m., community leaders will gather to kick off a new anti-smoking law. In July, the city of Patterson passed an ordinance prohibiting use of all tobacco products in all Patterson parks (other than park parking lot areas).

The move was made as part of a recognition of July as National Park and Recreation Month, supported by the Protecting Health and Slamming Tobacco youth coalition at Patterson High School.

“The drive of the students who led this effort is another great example of our community’s commitment to healthy living,” said Patterson Mayor Luis Molina. “We are very happy to take this step and make our great parks even better by making them tobacco-free areas.”

Over the past three years, volunteers and PHAST members have collected more than 50,000 cigarette butts in parks across Stanislaus County, said the Stanislaus County Office of Education Prevention Programs department that oversees PHAST. More than 6,500 of these were found in Patterson by Patterson High School PHAST club members.

The ordinance prohibits the use of all tobacco products to protect youth and other park visitors by reducing exposure to secondhand smoke. According to the U.S. surgeon general, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke even in outdoor areas.

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