Back to School Bash is an annual program of Community Family Relief Outreach, Mercy Heart, to kick-off the school year by providing free school supplies, backpacks, haircuts, and clothing to area school-aged children. The program is open for all children enrolled in school although most of the children who register live in Haltom City or nearby communities. In 2008, the Back to School Bash provided backpacks and other essentials to 200 children.

Approximately 28% of Haltom City households have an annual income that is less than $24,999 (Haltom City website 2007). The Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family or household of 5 members is an annual income of $24,300 (US Dept of Health and Human Services 2006). There is great need in our community for basic support for the family and the Back to School Bash is a fun avenue to serve the children.

The event is such a place of energy and excitement. Children eagerly anticipate opening their new backpacks full of new supplies and necessary clothing items. Many await that special new haircut! Dozens of Olge Beauty School stylists have volunteered for four consecutive years to cut the children's hair at no charge.

"As a teacher this is near and dear to my heart. I am fortunate enough to work at a school where there are not very many needy families. When I first got involved with the Back to School Bash, I was amazed at the number of children that needed help with simple school supplies. Each year I look forward to seeing the excitement on the face of the kids when they get to pick out free clothes and a new backpack full of supplies, that it is so worth the hard work over the summer to get this to be a success." Karen Kinnaird, Steering Committee for Bash.

Mercy Heart is a faith-based non-profit, community organization established in 1995. The mission of Mercy Heart is to assist at-risk families and children of inmates through and beyond the transitions of incarceration toward mental, emotional, material and spiritual well-being. Family members numbering in the thousands in Tarrant County face enormous odds against staying together when dad of mom go to prison; kids with incarcerated parents are eight to nine times more likely to exhibit delinquent behavior. Many of them will end up in prison themselves.

There is a compelling need for our community to stand with those less fortunate in helping to prevent joblessness, poverty, delinquency and the high cost of incarceration. Mercy Heart, through an array of ministries, including Community Family Relief Outreach and Mountain Movers, is attempting to inspire help and hope for those facing the devastating effects of incarceration on the family.

www.mercyheart.org