From the Heart gives away backpacks and school supplies

Colorful piles of backpacks, school supplies, new shoes and socks greet students at the annual From the Heart Backpack Giveaway Saturday, Aug. 10, in Anza. Courtesy photo

Students received haircuts, new backpacks, shoes, socks and school supplies at the annual From the Heart backpack giveaway Saturday, Aug. 10, in Anza.

Many charitable organizations, businesses and individuals contributed to the success of the day, held at the Hamilton High School gymnasium.

Event organizer Christina James buzzed about the gym with boundless energy, ensuring that no one was left out and answering questions rapid-fire.

“This years annual backpack Event was so much more than just ‘the best we’ve ever had,’” James said. “It was an amazing experience of exactly what happens when we all work together, taking care of our community, the way that we’re supposed to. We had more volunteers than we’ve ever had, around 75 at last count. So many in fact that we finished organizing and loading the backpacks early, so we were able to visit with each others groups and get to know each other better. We even had a group of people come up from St. Catherine’s Catholic Church in Temecula. Not only did they bring volunteers, they brought backpacks and supplies. Locally, we had donations from Russell Kitchen and KOA, who purchased all of the binders that we needed. Robyn Garrison from ERA purchased spiral notebooks as well as giving a financial donation. “Living Hope Anza, Rancho Chapel, High Country Calvary Chapel, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran, Anza Christian Fellowship, Sacred Heart and private donors gave financial donations as well. The volunteer list is extensive. What a community we have. Phil the barber, Janae from Janae’s Hair Cottage, Esther and Jose Barragan and Moe from Bank of Hemet all stood for hours cutting hair. Anza Electric Coop brought a huge team.

Organizers Wandakaye Crawford, left, and Christina James unload supplies at the annual From the Heart Backpack Giveaway in Anza. Courtesy photo

“Living Hope, Sacred Heart, Food for the Faithful, Anza Christian Fellowship, Rancho Chapel, CityReach Anza, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Anza, ELF of Anza, TOPS Group of Anza, St. Catherine’s Catholic Church of Temecula were the local churches and groups that all volunteered time. Bank of Hemet had a ‘stuff the school bus’ collection bus in their bank for weeks, as well as ladies volunteering on the day of the event.”

The hair stylists cut the children’s hair free of charge. The children showed off their new trims, happy to sport fresh looks for the first day of school. New shoes, socks, backpacks and supplies like paper and pencils were also handed out to the students.

“Let me just say how awesome Christina James is and everyone that took the time to volunteer. Everyone was so accommodating and kind and they even helped us get through the line extra fast with my special needs 6-year-old, so thank you everyone.” Gina Bingham Hall said on social media.

Balloon artist GeriLyn Blanton Mellin volunteered to set up for the event, and she created balloon animals for onlooking students.

“I had a great time making balloons for all of the kids,” she said.

Jennifer Hughes said, “This organization helped me gather and supply my now grown children for many years. I can never repay you all for your generosity and love for my kids. Thank you you all for helping me raise my kids and get them through school. All three of my kids are now grown and work and have amazing lives. This is in part because of this organization. God bless you Christina James and Linda Hart. Much love to you all.”

All the hard work and planning for the giveaway came together for a community event, James said.

“This was not a From the Heart event. We couldn’t have done it alone. This was a community event. This is what community looks like. Thank you seems so small right now. It just doesn’t feel enough. I can tell you that I cried so many times over the past few weeks, because of the

generosity of the people of this town. Blessing after blessing came. Thank you, each and every one of you! Hearts are full. God is good,” James said.

For local children who were not able to make the event, backpacks were donated to the schools and are available for pick up there.

From The Heart Christian Women’s Ministries serves and focuses on families and children in need in the mountain communities of Anza, Aguanga, Mountain Center and Idyllwild. Fundraising events are held throughout the year to help collect money to aid their cause.  Rummage sales, luncheons, raffles and the annual From the Heart holiday dinner all help to fund their activities.

To learn more about the From The Heart Christian Women’s Ministries, visit their Facebook page or write to: From The Heart Christian Women’s Ministries, PO Box 391224, Anza, CA 92539.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at