KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Steps to Victory, a Kalamazoo non-profit, partnered with over 20 community organizations to host their first Community Summer Bash at Seasons of Change Ministries on Kalamazoo's Edison Neighborhood.
Normally the non-profit hosts a back-to-school cookout to give away backpacks and school supplies ahead of the new school year. With so many families struggling after over a year and a half of pandemic lockdowns and closures, the group decided they needed to help get families ready for the school in a different way.
"This is something for everybody to bring the whole family out to bring the community out to connect them with resources that are desperately needed," Monet Bolden, the Steps to Victory community outreach coordinator, said.
Beyond the standard backpacks and school supplies for students, Steps to Victory gave away donated laundry detergents, hygiene products and diapers to families.
Representatives from many community outreach programs were also on hand to connect families with programs ranging from housing resources and food security to job placement.
"We want to let people know that there's stuff available, there's help available, there are people that care," Bolden said. "I see so many people on social media saying, 'I don't know where to go,' 'how do I get help for this' or 'how do I get help for that' so that's why we have over 20 partnering agencies here today. That's why we have staffing agencies today. That's why we have literacy agency that's one of the libraries here to get the kids books. Just all type of things, to let people know there is help in the city of Kalamazoo, they're not forgotten."
Thanks to community donations, the event Wednesday was a chance for kids to pick out some new school clothes. The group had clothing for toddlers to teens.
Barbers and hair stylists were on hand to help give kids a clean new look before they headed back the classroom.
"You'll be surprised how many kids go to school hungry, who are you know, maybe behaving, maybe inappropriately, because they're embarrassed because they don't have their haircut," Bolder said. "That's why we have barbers and braiders here, they may be embarrassed because their clothes are dirty, we have laundry soap and so we're trying to meet as many needs as possible."