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Community-led backpack giveaway helps SF youth prepare for school

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Dozens of families attend a free backpack giveaway at Potrero Del Sol/La Raza Park on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Jesus Martinez

With the start of the new school year just weeks away, local artists, merchants, barbers and community organizers spent much of the day Saturday providing children from struggling families with backpacks, school supplies and haircuts, free of charge.

The annual backpack giveaway event, now in its fourth year, was hosted by a coalition of community members and organizations known as All In San Francisco at the Potrero Del Sol/La Raza Park, located at the intersection of San Francisco’s Mission and Potrero Hill neighborhoods.

“School is around the corner and I know it can get expensive, especially with the high rent in San Francisco,” said Raul Lopez, founder of All In San Francisco. “The hope is to at least take a little bit of the burden off some families, by providing for school so they don’t have to go out and shop. They can come here and get everything they need.”

The event’s organizers hoped to hand out more than 500 backpacks filled with notebooks, folders and pencils by registering families from the surrounding neighborhoods.

Djs provided music, and volunteers from local businesses and eating establishments served up hot dogs, hamburgers and tacos at the community barbecue that drew dozens of people.

Members of the San Francisco Black Firefighters Association opened the doors to a parked fire truck to attendees, in the hopes of inspiring minority youth to seek out careers with the San Francisco Fire Department.

“We want to make sure that these kids have opportunities and different avenues, other than whats the norm, especially for minorities,” said the the association’s executive-at-large, Antione Davis. “As a person of color, I want to show up and show out at these events, so the children can see me and know that they can do exactly what I’m doing, or better.”

Sponsors of the event included a mix of local and regional merchants and culture and advocacy organizations, including PODER SF, the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, and the Mission Housing Development Corporation.

“San Francisco is not exempt from having homeless students in our schools, and spaces like this are vital not just for the services you get, but for the community building,” sad Chirag Bhakta, Mission Housing’s community engagement coordinator.“Oftentimes when city government falls, short it’s the community that has to lift everybody up, and this is definitely a space where that’s happening.”

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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