Hundreds of books, made possible by volunteers and donors, were gifted to students. (Courtesy of Mark Mahoney)
Hundreds of books, made possible by volunteers and donors, were gifted to students. (Courtesy of Mark Mahon)

On a beautiful, sunny day, with a gentle cooling breeze, goats and live animals accompanied by the sound of steel drums melodically played in the background in the middle of Atlantic Street SW.  Hosted in part by Community of Hope and the William O. Lockridge Neighborhood Library on Aug. 8, the road transformed into the 11th annual Beat the Streets Back to School Community Bash.  

Hundreds of people of all ages gathered to enjoy food, games, music and free school supplies, made possible by sponsors such as Amazon, the Department of Parks & Recreation and Homesnap.  

The huge turnout aligns with Community of Hope’s mission to end family homelessness and increase the health of the greater D.C. community.  

“We cannot be successful unless the community knows that we are here to serve them,” said Leah Garrett, Community of Hope’s vice president of Development and Communications.  

Garrett stressed that the organization, in service for 43 years, focuses on people who have barriers to health care or community resources, however, “we are here to serve the community without restriction on age or economics”.

Loaded with fun for the entire family such as a petting zoo, face painting, moon bounce, live music performances, food and complimentary ice cream, the goal of the Back to School Bash, said Garrett, “is to give supplies, resources, and encouragement that allow youth to return to school filled with confidence and enthusiasm.”  This goal was realized through a host of onsite partners including; Metropolitan Police Department Washington Metro Transit Police Department, Conway Health & Resource Center, Martha’s Table and the Department of Employment Services.

Youth attendees were treated to backpacks filled with supplies, free haircuts or braiding, and raffle gifts that included computers and bikes. 

Though it was a weekday, Irene Fick, 64, community operations manager for USI Insurance Company, took the day off, along with all of her colleagues, to help distribute over 2,000 backpacks filled with supplies to the youth on site.  

Headlining musical performer DeAngelo Redman, 30, said performing at the block party was important to him as he has seen a sharp decline in many arts and culture programs available to District youth.  

“As artists, we have to come out and touch the community.  We have a responsibility to show these kids what dreams look like and help them to believe that they are achievable no matter where you’re from.”

In its 11th year, the event was a perfect mix of engaging entertainment and provision of resources.  

Mary’s Center, which provides personalized pre- and post-labor medical and dental care, educated women about in-home services at all stages of the birthing process.  

“We believe that every woman has a right to have her child in a safe environment and be supported during and after birth regardless of her economic status, Intake Manager Magali Ceballos, 29, emphasized.

Attendee Cindy Carrillo, 32, said she was grateful for community services such as the ones represented throughout the event.  

New to the Washington, D.C., region, Carrillo, forced to relocate to D.C. due to an emergency, soon found herself homeless.  With a 5-year-old autistic son, and a second son, age 12, her circumstances quickly became desperate.  

Carillo told The Informer she credits Community of Hope with assistance in several aspects of life.

“With the lack of organizations in SE that cater to Hispanic speakers, and a 5-year-old son with autism, I didn’t know where to turn,” Carollo said. “Community of Hope helped me find transitional housing, medical care, and employment classes.”

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