Two Longview churches hosted back-to-school events Saturday offering supplies, free haircuts and other services to the city’s youth.
New Beginning Faith Ministry on Caddo Street has conducted the event for 19 years. and it keeps growing, said Tony Lewis, co-pastor with his wife, Gloria.
Neither he nor attorney Rory Dukes, an event supporter, expressed concerns about Red Oak Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard conducting a similar event on the same day — and for the first time.
“As long as the kids’ needs are met, we don’t care who is doing it,” Lewis said. “It’s all about the kids.”
Dukes said, “It’s just all God’s kingdom coming together. It’s not competition.”
The back-to-school event at Red Oak will be an annual activity, said Roderic Lloyd Jr. of the ELITE team, which organized the event.
ELITE, which stands for “Every Little Inch Takes Effort,” is a group of young black men who graduated from Longview High School who are trying to be a positive influence on youth in the community, Lloyd said. He said ELITE collected $1,250 in contributions from corporations and individuals to cover the costs of 100 haircuts and supplies.
Lloyd counted among ELITE’s supporters professional athletes who graduated from Longview High, including Los Angeles Rams linebacker Travin Howard.
The event took place in the church’s gym, where youths played basketball and dodge ball and got their faces painted. Children and parents also waited in line for free hot dogs, cookies and soft drinks.
Linda Robinson, who showed up with husband Damian Bolden and three sons, said she came “just because we heard some good things about the church, that they are nice and very open.”
Nysha Ward said she brought her 10-year-old son, Sekemian Moore, along with her nephew, Jayden Buchanan, 3, in part because volunteer barber Chris Jones has been cutting her son’s hair since he was 2.
Before walking upstairs to get a haircut, Sekemian said he liked meeting people, playing dodge ball and basketball, “and that’s it.”
Four barbers worked at Red Oak while two barbers and a beautician volunteered at New Beginning.
Isaiah Fuller, a sophomore at Longview High School, was fifth in line outside the door to get a haircut at New Beginning.
“My mom, she wanted me to come here today, wanted me to get out of the house and wanted me to get my hair cut,” Isaiah said.
New Beginning also handed out backpacks with school supplies, and provided space for nonprofit entities such as Special Health Resources, Wellness Pointe and East Texas Council of Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Some people lined up for HIV testing.
Outside, people helped themselves to donated clothes, furniture, books and other merchandise.
Debora Templeton loaded her SUV with donated goods at about noon but she said she was not done.
“We are going to unload, come back and get two couches,” Templeton said, adding her two granddaughters would get haircuts.