ANGLETON — Reverend Joel McKinnon of Angleton First United Methodist Church said a sign from God woke him in the middle of the night and inspired him to host a back-to-school festival for community kids.

On Sunday morning, with more than a dozen sponsors, the church hosted myriad activities for kids, including bounce castles, ice cream donated by Blue Bell, free haircuts by local hair salon owners and more.

“The police department and fire department came out,” McKinnon said. “Texas Children’s Hospital donated 200 backpacks with supplies. We had the mayor here, our county judge, commissioners, it kept getting bigger and bigger,” McKinnon said.

Though McKinnon wasn’t initially sure how to pull off the Back to School Bash, he knew that as kids prepared to head back to school, he wanted them to know they were a priority in the community.

“This was our first year to do this and we’ll do it every year,” McKinnon said. “I was thinking, ‘How do we pay for this? How do we put this on?’ We had a meeting and several businesses started getting involved. It went from one to two to three businesses, continuing to grow, and we have 12 medical professionals on-site today.”

Nursing students from Chamberlain University volunteered to take blood pressures and educate families about vaccines and other medical information, faculty member Dr. Sharon Luksetich said.

Several families said they were excited about the free haircuts for children returning to school. Between Ginger’s Salon & Spa, Belle Cheveux, Together Brothers Barbershop and Rustic Blend Salon & Boutique, owners provided fresh styles to dozens of children.

Winter Pantoja brought her three children to the event at First United Methodist Church.

“We were able to get my daughter’s hair cut, which was a huge blessing to me right now,” Pantoja said.

In addition to haircuts, kids received free dental screenings from Bent Tree Dental Associates as well as Eagle Dental Texas.

The event was a huge success, said Youth Coordinator Scooter Buck.

“To be in a church that really wants to go outside of its walls and be in the community is what it’s about,” Buck said. “That’s the kind of church I want to be in. As a youth leader, I’m going to be at the schools and games because we want people to see that we care about them.”

He added that the church hadn’t seen this many people out there in a long time.

McKinnon said the event is a reflection of the type of community Angleton is known for, and he wants to share the message that kids are valued within that neighborhood.

“We’re gonna show up and work together for the kids,” McKinnon said. “We are better together in this community. We want to truly live out our motto of ‘where the heart is,’ and the heart is when we work together as a team.”

Courtney Blackann is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0152.

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