Housing Authority distributes backpacks, supplies for low-income families ahead of school year
About 500 local school children from low-income homes received free backpacks full of school supplies on Saturday during an event hosted by the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara and nonprofit 2nd Story Associates.
Now in its ninth year, the “Tools for School” event provides school supplies and backpacks annually for low-income children and families who are benefactors of the Housing Authority. The event was held at Presidio Springs community room at 721 Laguna Street.
During Saturday’s event, hundreds of children chose from a variety of blue, maroon and black backpacks on Saturday, each of which were filled with sanitizers, masks, pencils, crayons and other school necessities.
Rob Fredericks, the Executive Director and CEO of the Housing Authority, told the News-Press Saturday that the event ensures that children have the tools they need to be successful in the upcoming school year. The event is in accordance with their “holistic model” of not only providing a home, but providing the services families need to feel supported, he said.
“When you have everything you need, whether it’s for a job or school, you’re going to do better with the correct tools,” Mr. Fredericks said on Saturday.
“You can see the kids with their happy smiling faces with the backpacks — you can’t see their smiles with the mask, but you can see (them) smiling through their eyes when they get their backpack ready for school,” he later added.
The Housing Authority, alongside its affiliate nonprofit 2nd Story Associates, connects local residents with affordable housing options and provides supportive services to individuals with limited income. The Housing Authority serves about 4,000 families in the region, which includes about 2,000 children.
After a tough 18 months during the pandemic for many families, Alice Villarreal Redit, the resident program supervisor with the Housing Authority, said this year’s event had even greater significance as kids prepare to go back to the traditional classroom for the first time in more than a year and a half.
“(The event) does have added importance because we want our families to know we’re here for them,” Ms. Villarreal Redit told the News-Press. “We want them to start the school year off on the right foot feeling confident and you know, well equipped to get through the school year, and it’s just been so positive and inspiring to connect with families directly.”
“Many of these kids we’ve known since they were little and now they’re starting high school. So I think for them to see that continuity too is really positive and to know we’ve always been here and we’re going to keep being here,” she continued.
Kayla Muir, a Santa Barbara resident, brought her four children — Vanessa, Enrique, Jacob and Jason — to pick out a backpack ahead of the fall school year on Sunday. Three of her children are under the age of 10 and will be attending Franklin Elementary School this fall, while her 12-year-old, Enrique Aispuro, will be attending Santa Barbara Junior High School.
Ms. Muir told the News-Press on Saturday that her family has been involved with the Housing Authority for about six years now and attends the “Tools for School” event annually. She said the event helps prepare her kids for the back to school season with all the supplies they need.
“(The event) helps a lot,” Ms. Muir said. “You know, we wouldn’t even probably be able to afford to get stuff for the kids due to the job (situation). It’s very helpful for us.”
Saturday’s event also featured a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic run by the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics. About 40 people signed up to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at the clinic, some of whom were eligible school children ages 12 and older.
Dr. Charles Fenzi, the CEO and Chief Medical Officer of the neighborhood clinic, told the News-Press Saturday that it is critical that all eligible people get their shot as soon as possible in order to slow the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant.
“The sooner we can get everybody vaccinated, the more likely we are to put this pandemic behind us,” he said.
For parents who are skeptical about getting their child vaccinated ahead of the fall school year, Dr. Fenzi said the data proves that these vaccines are safe and effective, even if it seems like the shot came out very fast.
He wants to remind parents that researchers did not “skip any steps” when creating this vaccine, adding that part of the reason it came out so quickly is because thousands of researchers around the world were working to create an effective vaccine all at the same time, providing the world with the vaccine options widely available today.
“We probably have never had a safer vaccine, even though it came out so fast,” Dr. Fenzi said. “We tested it thoroughly, we’ve given over 4 billion doses worldwide. So we have a ton of data on how safe it is. It’s a very safe vaccine.”
For more information on the Housing Authority, visit hacsb.org.