For many of the hundreds of kids and parents in the Edward Saunders Community Center Sunday, the pizza slice and the new backpack filled with school supplies were just breaks in the routine of late summer. For others, well, you can see their new backpacks on the way to school as early as Monday morning.
The Bailey Avenue community center is near one of the city's poorest communities, the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority's Kenfield and Langfield developments. Common Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt said this sixth-annual event - delivering new backpacks along with crayons, pencils, folders and notebooks - is really important.
"Right now, we probably have close to 400 and, every year, we've given between 3 and 400," said Wyatt. "You can see the turnout we have. When I got here there was a line of people. I didn't think we'd have so many because we have so many book bag giveaways. But this just speaks to the needs that residents have in our community, that these book bags are so important in helping their kids start off on the right foot."
The backpacks were somewhat different sizes, reflecting the varied age groups in the room. Mom Jonai said there is some peer pressure in having those new backpacks.
"Yes. It makes kids feel they're left out when they don't have the things that they need to start the first day of school," she said.
Mom Erica Chambers agreed, the backpacks are symbolic.
"They need it," Chambers said. "Instead of having a plastic bag or carrying it in the hand. Always something. Something's better than nothing."
Monica was there from Buffalo United Charter School, preparing any of the school's nearly 200 new students for opening.
"Our colors are basically a blue, green, orange. They try to take blue ones," Monica said. "We're also giving extra supplies to offer hope, so they need help for school supplies. So we support them."
A major donor is American Medical Response, whose headquarters is only a few blocks away on William Gaiter Parkway. Regional Director Tim Frost was there to lead the giveaway, as hundreds of kids left with those new and colorful backpacks into their last few days of summer.
"It's great to be able to provide basic supplies to get people a little bit of piece of mind starting out," Frost said. "This is, quite honestly, a challenging time. The start of school is always. You're ending the summer and as the councilman started in his little prelim speech, I wanted to stay in bed, too, at the start of the year. Who wants to go back? Beautiful summer. Beautiful day like today. I totally understand."