Parents wait overnight for back-to-school supplies

Families line up for Manos de Cristo Back-to-school Program (Daniel Guerrero/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  School is still a little more than a month away, but thousands of kids will stock up on school supplies this week.

“It’s one of the most heartwarming experiences that you could ever experience as a donor to Manos de Cristo,” said Mary Alice Carnes, Manos de Cristo communications manager. “The cool thing about the Manos program: It’s like the kids are going shopping for their own stuff, and that’s the thing that brings dignity and really a lot of confidence. It’s their stuff. As soon as they get their stuff, and they’ve claimed it and it’s theirs, to see them bouncing out of the door; they’re ready for school. It’s so heartwarming.”

The nonprofit agency Manos De Cristo kicks off its annual Back-to-School Program Monday morning. The goal is to prepare 2,000 low-income students for the school year with backpacks, supplies and clothing. Families started lining up as early as 3:30 a.m. at Allan Elementary in East Austin to make sure they got the items needed for the first day of class.

Families line up for Manos de Cristo Back-to-school Program (Daniel Guerrero/KXAN)
Families line up for Manos de Cristo Back-to-school Program (Daniel Guerrero/KXAN)

“My big thing is: A child should go to school, should feel excited, should be happy to be there on Day 1 and not go in feeling ashamed or feeling sad because they don’t have what they need,” said Julie Ballesteros, executive director of Manos De Cristo. “Because I taught in East Austin years ago, I saw that need, and I saw the look in a child’s eyes when they came to school and they weren’t prepared.”

Around 400 volunteers throughout the week will help pass out school supplies to about 400 students a day. Ballesteros said this year is different than others because they moved the location from the North Austin Event Center to Allan Elementary School in East Austin. Also, they only have one week to supply 2,000 kids — compared to the two weeks in the past.

“We could only get a space for one week, so we’re doubling the effort,” said Carnes. “We’re to have quite a number of people volunteering, helping us serve 400 children a day — but the same joy, the same excitement, and probably triple that because we’re going to be serving more children in a smaller amount of time.”

The school supplies are based on the Austin Independent School District school supply list.

Back-to-School Program

  • Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Friday 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., while supplies last
  • Supplies from Pre-K through fifth grade
  • Allan Elementary School at 4900 Gonzales St.
  • Bus options: #4-Montopolis or #350 Airport Boulevard
  • Don’t need to bring documentation.

The program cost around $70,000 and is backed by donations from the community, along with Covenant Presbyterian Church, the Maximus Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas.

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