Modesto Gospel Mission far short for annual school supplies giveaway

A girl admires her new backpack during the 2014 Modesto Gospel Mission Back to School Block Party in Modesto.
A girl admires her new backpack during the 2014 Modesto Gospel Mission Back to School Block Party in Modesto. Modesto Bee file

If nothing changes, 1,000 or more needy children will remain in need after leaving the Modesto Gospel Mission’s annual backpack and school supplies giveaway.

The mission has enough to give out only about 100 to 125 backpacks right now, with its annual Back to School Block Party set for July 30. Last year, 1,100 children were given supply-filled backpacks during the event, and more could turn out this year.

“It seems like every year it changes, it fluctuates,” Gospel Mission Executive Director and CEO Kevin Carroll said of the shortfall. “I think, too, there are a lot more (charitable organizations) doing backpacks, so some (who donate) might be sending them other places. I never know what we’re going to get.”

People can donate backpacks and supplies at the Gospel Mission, 1400 Yosemite Blvd., Modesto. The office is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but items can be left on the loading dock after hours, Carroll said. Financial donations, which staff members will use to purchase school supplies, are welcome but money should be taken in or mailed to the office.

Modesto Gospel Mission has been helping the homeless and needy in Stanislaus County for more than 65 years.

Donations can be made as late as the day before the party, Carroll said. Last year, a financial donation came in the evening before and “I was at Walmart, day of, in line buying backpacks and school supplies.”

Organizers need backpacks – preferably not blue or red to respect the schools’ color rules – and supplies such as binder paper, pens, pencils, erasers, pencil pockets, rulers and glue sticks.

The mission uses a list from Modesto City Schools to fill the packs, which are given to children from preschool through high school so they can start the academic year with the tools for success.

Those children mainly come from the airport district near the mission, but they also come from other low-income areas in the city.

“The least of the least kids,” Carroll said, “who don’t have a lot.”

The shortfall also might be a reflection of how early the block party is held, Carroll said. In early July, few already are thinking about going back to school.

But the timing is based on the start of the academic year, he said, which begins Aug. 10 for Modesto City Schools students. “If we had pushed (the giveaway) into August, it would be too late.”

The block party is geared to help youths get ready for the school year on a happy note, with a carnival atmosphere – bounce houses, carnival games, mascots from businesses and organizations mingling with the kids, as well as free popcorn, hot dogs, chips and sodas for the families who attend. ID kits will be given out and volunteers also will be on hand to give free haircuts for children.

Modesto Gospel Mission depends entirely on donations from people, churches, foundations and businesses.

“We have seven or eight ladies who volunteer (to give haircuts),” Carroll said. “They did 108 haircuts last year. That’s a lot of haircuts.”

Attracting kids is never a problem, he said. “Everybody kind of knows when it is. ... They line up early Saturday morning.”

Supplies are given first-come, first-served, and when they run out, they hope no child will leave empty-handed.

In addition to needing supplies, the mission welcomes volunteers to help during the party. Carroll said volunteers and staff members do a great job making the event a success each year.

“Three years ago, when I became CEO, I was amazed at how many people we had attending and how seamless it was,” Carroll said. “It’s a pretty amazing event.”

To contact the Modesto Gospel Mission, call 209-529-8259. For more on the organization, go to

Pat Clark: 209-578-2312