This week, volunteers are filling backpacks and hope as part of the Annual Manos de Cristo back to school campaign.
With each backpack and smiling face there is a small victory. The Manos de Cristo back to school supplies program is in its final days for this year. Typically about 2,000 kids file through the north Austin event center and are provided new supplies to start the new school year. This year, according to executive director Julie Ballesteros, the need seems to be greater than in the past.
"In the first few days, we saw a lot more people very early in the morning,” said Ballesteros.
Some families started lining up as early as 2 a.m. to get in.
"One out of every three children lives in poverty and we are here to try to alleviate some of that stress from the families,” said Ballesteros.
Single mom Isabel Reynero understands that stress. The clothing, the books, and school supplies given to her daughters here, represents the shopping spree she could not afford to give them.
"When they are happy it makes me happy so I feel like I accomplished something today,” said Reynero.
Donte Miller brought his two younger brothers, the backpack 2-year-old Dillion picked out was almost as big as he is. Seven-year-old Demari, Dillon's brother, was also a little camera shy but he did show off the new book he had tucked away.
"This is very important because I know as their brother they need their education, so this is very big, very important,” said Donte Miller.
The supplies are given out between 8 a.m. and noon. The last day is Friday.
As this event starts to wind down, organizers are already planning ahead for next year, restocking for what could be an even bigger need.
"It makes it a lot easier for us to have the money in the bank and to start pre-ordering and to get better buys earlier in the year, so the more the community can help us do that, the easier our job is.,” said Ballesteros.
While each child left with a full back-pack, their parents left with more confidence that their kids will be prepared as they start this new school year.
The last day is Friday for the Manos de Cristo program and only children in grades Pre-K to 5th are eligible. If you miss it, AISD is also doing its back to school supplies event on Saturday. It's being held at the convention center from 9 a.m. until noon. More than 8,000 kids are expected.