For most children, the start of a new school year means getting new clothes, new shoes and - most importantly - new school supplies.

But as more families feel the economic pinch, many children face the prospect of returning to the classroom without the basic necessities.

The Abundant Life Worship Center in Egg Harbor City wants to ease some of the financial burdens families face in getting their children ready for school. Expanding on a longstanding tradition, and with financial assistance from the community, the church will host a Back to School event Aug. 25 and distribute more than 100 new backpacks filled with school supplies to children in preschool to 12th grade.

"Our goal is to put a smile on children's faces and get them excited about returning to school," Youth Ministry Director LaShonine Gandy-Smith said.

The church has been holding a school supply giveaway for congregation members for about 15 years, but last year Gandy-Smith said she noticed an increased need for help and figured the need must be great in the community as well.

"We see it as our obligation to help people in the community as well as our own church members," she said.

The Egg Harbor City Chamber of Commerce eagerly became a partner in the project, and with donations from local businesses the church was able to collect everything from pencils, pens, notebooks, crayons, calculators, paper, and especially backpacks. But more is needed, she said.

"We want to make sure we have more than enough. When a child gets something new for school it makes them excited about learning, and that's what it is all about, making that impact," she said.

To make the event fun and family friendly, the church will hold its backpack giveaway in conjunction with its annual barbecue, in a tent on the grassy area of New York Avenue next to the church. There will be food, balloon, face painting, bouncy rides, a DJ and music, and other activities for children and adults.

The event is free and open to every family in the community.

Donations of school supplies, gift cards, food and backpacks are still being accepted and can be dropped off at the church or So Precious in His Sight children's consignment shop, located at 244 Philadelphia Ave.

Contact Lucia C. Drake:

609-569-7490

If you go

What:

Back to School event to distribute school supplies

When:

2 p.m. Aug. 25

Where:

Abundant Life Worship Center, 32 New York Ave., Egg Harbor City

How much:

Free

More info:

Open to all students in the community, preschool to grade 12. To learn more or donate, call LaShonine Gandy-Smith at 609-965-7707.