Back to school: the Johnston organization distributes school supplies

The second annual “J-Rock the Block” was organized by Johnston Parents for equity and anti-racism.

JOHNSTON, Iowa — Families in Iowa are finding that school supply prices are gouging a bigger hole than usual in their bank accounts. Luckily, parents and community members are banding together to make it work, even with the start of the school year so close.

The second annual “J-Rock the Block,” held at Simpson Barn on Sunday, gave families the chance to prepare before the start of the school year in just days, from getting school supplies or a free haircut.

Organizers with Johnston Parents for Equity and Anti-Racism (J-PEAR) said it wanted to provide a resource for families who might otherwise have fallen through the cracks.

“We felt like our community was sometimes overlooked because we’re a suburb and we know there are families out there that need help,” said J-PEAR member Lya Williams.

And the need for this kind of help is high right now: According to the National Retail Federation, the average household is expected to shell out $864 in total for school supplies this year. This is a lot for families already in difficulty. A speaker shared that community gifts once provided a lifeline to his own family.

“Stuff like that is how we survived,” Pascha Morgan said. “Go out there and get free supplies, and not just get the supplies, just community events like this.”

Organizers told Local 5 they had prepared about the same amount of supplies as last year, but were down significantly by the end of the event. They hope that the children who participated today will leave feeling like their community is helping to care for them.

“I hope the children who showed up today will leave knowing that they are parents in their community who care and want to succeed and we are here to fight for them when it feels like no one is there to fight for their rights,” Williams said.

Johnston’s children won’t have long before using these school supplies; Classes begin on Tuesday August 23.

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Aubrey L. Morgan