Within 15 minutes of City Dream Centre’s annual backpack giveaway beginning, the lineup to register had filled up with hundreds of families.
While the lineup was long “right off the bat,” City Dream Centre president and founder Loretta Hibbs said it wasn’t uncommon.
“It depends… Sometimes they line up from 6:30 in the morning — even in the rain,” she said at the start of the event. “We’ve had windstorms. We’ve had pouring down rain, but today it actually looks like we’re going to have a decent day which I’m so happy about.”
This is the fifth year the charity has run its back-to-school event, which includes a backpack giveaway, produce bags, free haircuts and free clothing.
On Saturday, City Dream Centre was holding the back-to-school event in Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford, with 2,000 backpacks between the three sites. There were 1,000 bags to giveaway in Surrey, Hibbs said.
“This year, we’re thinking we might get a little close to running out (in Surrey). But 1,000 kids will get a backpack for sure.”
According to City Dream Centre’s website, the event is to help families “who may be finding it challenging to provide all that their kids need for the new school year.”
Going back to school, Hibbs said, is a stressful time.
“It’s just a fun day to say, ‘Hey, we’re here to support you if you need anything.’ I think this relieves some of the pressure for the families that are working in poverty.”
Hibbs said the charity’s focus is on the marginalized community because “some people may feel invisible.” She said the aim is to “make them feel visible, that we see them and that we care and that we want to help them win.”
Over the years hosting the event, Hibbs said she’s noticed that families will come to it “cautiously.”
“They come and see what it’s like, and then they’ll run home and get other families to see what it’s like,” Hibbs said. “They bring a lot of families back and that, to me, shows that they’re really excited about this event and it means a lot to them.
“You can see the kids faces as they’re running around. They’re excited. There’s a lot of free stuff here for them… We’ve got a lot of stuff going on that it just lets them enjoy what we have in our community and kind of takes away whatever pressures they’re thinking of.”
“It’s amazing the need. I didn’t know the need was so big in our city. We live in an amazing country and to se the need in this families is quite heartbreaking, but at the same time we get to play a small part in helping these families,” she said.
“Our goal is to bridge the gap between homelessness, addiction and poverty to self-sustainability, to empower people to be able to give back to their society.”
Throughout the year, City Dream Centre also has an adopt-a-school program with the Surrey School District, feeding programs, development program and city care dental – a mobile dental care unit. The charity also runs For the Love of Thrifting (106-19211 Fraser Hwy.), which helps to support its causes.
For more information on City Dream Centre, visit citydreamcentre.com.