ROCK HILL, S.C. — The 2021-22 school year is quickly approaching. This means it will soon be time for students to sharpen their pencils, buy up binders, and pack lunch sacks filled with sandwiches and treats. However, some students in York, Lancaster, and Chester counties in South Carolina need extra help getting those essentials, a fact that the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to enhance.
That's where the Back2School Block Party comes in.
Last year, the block party went virtual. This year, the parking lot at Rock Hill Galleria will fill up with people again. The community is set to come together again to meet the school supply needs kids have, something Sheila Caldwell says is needed.
"This is our largest community outreach for families here in York County," she said.
Caldwell is the founder and president of The Heart2Heart Foundation, a nonprofit focused on heart health that helps put on the block party every year. She says before the pandemic, the party would be held inside the mall. However, the pandemic is shifting things outdoors and under tents.
She said that wasn't the only thing the pandemic changed.
"We had parents last year who applied for bookbags that, in previous years, had either volunteered or donated with the event," Caldwell said. "Family after family of parents who lost a job or had hours cut back."
The experience was humbling for those families then, and for Serena Williams, it's all the more reason to host the event.
Williams is the coordinator of community services for Rock Hill Schools and says the Back2School Block Party is crucial for kids, noting that 58% of the district's students qualify for some kind of support.
"Whether that's nutritional support with meals, or supplies, or other resources," Williams said, "we have a great need in our community for this kind of event."
Kids get a backpack full of supplies for them, but the benefits don't stop there. Families will also have access to health screenings and information, which includes COVID-19 shots this year.
This year, the block party will take two forms: the in-person party and a virtual one.
The in-person festivities at the Galleria Rock Hill will happen on August 7 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The virtual block party is Saturday, August 21, from 9 a.m. until noon. Participants can join via any device.
Families who need supplies can register now for the in-person party, while registration for the virtual block party opens up on July 15.
There are still supply needs that anyone who wants to help can still pitch in with, be it with monetary donations or actual school supplies. You can click here to make your donation online, and read through what you need to do to drop off donated supplies.