Many children left Mills Park on Saturday morning clutching free backpacks full of school supplies, but hundreds more left with only a few pencils and clothing that may fit in a few months. One organizer described the overwhelming turnout of school-age children and parents as an indicator of Carson City's working-class plight: low wages that afford no room for extras.
Viridiana Hernandez, 6, got through the line early with her brother and mother.
"I got socks and shoes and-" she pointed at a box of colorful underwear. Her mother dragged a clear plastic trash bag of clothing behind them.
Toby Hausman, of Carson City, brought her two kids, and was also loading up backpacks for her niece and nephew. She was in line at 8:15 a.m.
"My husband and I both work full-time, but it's hard to come up with the extra money for this stuff," she said while directing her children beside the shoe table. Hausman is expecting a baby girl in September.
Families started lining up at 7:30 a.m. on the small wooden bridge beside the pavilions for the free school supplies, immunizations and clothing.
"We're taking their word that they need it," said Elizabeth Dorway, a coordinator with a local citizens' group called The Dialogue to End Childhood Hunger & Homelessness. The event was organized by the group and the Carson City School District.
Many parents were taking supplies for nieces and nephews and neighbors, as others - like Rebekah Styles, a grandmother of 12 from Carson City - brought all of her family to the event. She said it's needed and they're grateful.
"We're pretty sure a lot of them are needy," Dorway said. "No one would wait in a line for school supplies if they didn't really need to. They'd just go to Wal-Mart."
Wearing a distressed look beneath her yellow ball cap, she walked the line trying to install confidence in those who waited in line.
"I'm really hoping there's enough stuff," Dorway said about 20 minutes after the distribution began at 9 a.m. She looked up and down a line that stretched from the pavilions to the entrance of the parking lot.
Her list of supplies was short compared to that line. A first-time event for a relatively young service group, no one had expected this large of a turnout.
Stacked on tables beneath the east-side picnic pavilions were about 150 boxes of crayons, a hundred reams of paper, 150 spiral notebooks, 50 nicer backpacks, about 200 backpacks from various businesses, 69 binders, 132 folders, 66 pencil holders, 54 bottles of glue, 100 rulers, and piles of second-hand clothing.
Squirming lines inched around the tables, which were staffed by about 35 volunteers from local service organizations and churches.
"I'm hoping there's not going to be a revolt," Dorway said, then chuckled nervously.
There was no yelling - except from parents at children who threw rocks at a bee hive embedded in a dry creek bed - and no revolting. Children played together in the dirt, upturned rocks and pulled up worms. Parents expressed patience in the midst of a chaotic event.
At the end of the line was Alyssa, 5, and Brian Rasmussen, 7, and they are hoping for backpacks and shoes. Alyssa hung onto the waist of her dad, Brian Rasmussen. He is a maintenance worker at a Carson City apartment complex and works seasonally as an excavator.
At about 10:30 a.m., Dorway walked the line again - this time to tell families that the school supplies were exhausted. She said Saturday afternoon that about 800 people attended the event, but only about 150 left fully supplied.
Brian Rasmussen said he doesn't know how they'll get supplies or school clothes for the kids. The thrift store would be a future stop.
The fact that demand exceeded supply didn't faze some children, who were happy to depart with only a colorful, hardcover book. Alyssa Rasmussen happily held up a used copy of "The Ugly Duckling."
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.
You Can Help
To get involved with The Dialogue to End Childhood Hunger & Homelessness call Alan Dorway at 882-1032. The group's next meeting is 4:30 p.m. Sept. 7 at First Presbyterian Church, at the corner of North Nevada and West Musser streets.