COH and companions are serving to college students within the Houston space put together for return to highschool
The city of Houston has once again teamed up with local partners to help disadvantaged school children in the area prepare for the new school year.
In its 11th year, the Mayor’s Back 2 School Fest at NRG Park was launched to help students whose families are financially tight and need school supplies. Along with the Houston Food Bank and its title sponsor Shell, the city has also partnered with the Harris County Department of Health to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to residents of the area who wanted to.
“Now that we are seeing an increase in the Delta variant, there is now more demand, which is increasing a little, as people realize I need to get vaccinated,” said Trey Frankovich, HCPH vaccine administrator. “The more people get vaccinated, the better it is for the city.”
Susan Christian, director of the mayors’ office for special events, said the festival started at 8 a.m. on August 14 and ended at 4 p.m. She estimated that more than 10,000 vehicles came to NRG Park to get school supplies and possibly vaccines.
“In May the federal government was able to ensure that the vaccines are safe for children aged 12 and over, so we wanted to promote this here at this event,” she said. “You hit about 100 cars an hour. They hope to be able to vaccinate around 1,300 people today. “
Christian also praised the Houston Food Bank, which worked with the city at the start of the pandemic, for their contributions of two large boxes of groceries containing a variety of fresh produce, protein, and dry goods for each vehicle to satisfy hunger.
“It is also another way of helping those in need. We have joined the Food Bank on many occasions and they have been right here at NRG Park doing a lot of distributions. We look forward to welcoming them back as partners on this day, so that we can add to all that these families are getting, ”she said.
Frankovich said the festival is an opportune time for residents to get their vaccines.
“We have people who come here to get their food and back to school supplies and they can do it all on one line; They don’t have to go in line for the vaccine, get it, and then in another line for their school supplies and groceries, “he said.
Partnerships with local businesses and nonprofits are essential, but nothing embodies the true spirit of “helping your neighbor” more than the volunteer efforts of local residents.
For Freje Randall, a professional dancer who divides her time between Houston and New York City, volunteering at the festival was her way of giving back to the community.
“I don’t have a lot of time, but I wanted to do something,” she said as she helped load boxes of groceries into the holds of the vehicles.
Randall, who was the lead dancer for Houston R&B superstar Lizzo at the Grammy Awards last year, is also a student at the University of Houston and said she was drawn to volunteer to help provide school supplies helping children in need.
“I am currently in college and I know middle school, high school and elementary school students are so hard to come by, especially now because of COVID. It was always hard for me to find school supplies in the store, ”she said.
For Doe Florsheim, volunteering has become a full-time job since she retired.
“My husband, I and I worked at the blackboard for about 30 weeks last year. This is incredibly important in giving the food to the people who need it with nowhere else to turn, ”she said.
Christian said Mayor Sylvester Turner visited the site for several hours early Saturday morning to provide his assistance.
“You know, he always says ‘yes’ and that makes him a great leader. The other part is his vision and what he has is a great vision for us to follow Houston’s path through some phenomenal opportunities, “she said.
She added that the success of the Back 2 School Festival demonstrated how to successfully organize an event during a pandemic.
“One thing I’m very clear about is that we can put outdoor events together, and we’ve been doing that throughout the pandemic, be it at distribution events like this one. We continue to take precautions and encourage people to wear their masks when we are up close both outside and inside. We want to practice what we preach, ”said Christian.