School supplies top border with Back To School written in colorful chalk with against a chalkboard background

“Back to school” may have a different meaning as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, but that’s not stopping Generation Church from holding its annual Back to School Bash.

While the church, 11832 S. Warner Elliot Loop, Ahwatukee, has pushed back the bash to Aug. 15 from mid-July, Pastor Ryan Visconti said he’s hoping to give away 1,000 backpacks stuffed with supplies.

The bash also includes free haircuts, water inflatables and games and even free food.

“We’ve been collecting the supplies for about the last month and our church members love participating in this drive,” said Visconti, whose church is offering both online and in-person worship with social distancing on Sundays.

“Even with all the social distancing happening, we think this event is important and worth holding – although it will be different with sanitation and distancing guidelines in place,” he added. “We know the school year is coming, and there are kids who are under-resourced. Their need doesn’t go away just because of our current crisis. So, we want to serve them as much as we can right now. “

Continuing the bash despite the pandemic is one of Generation Church’s efforts to try and keep people moored “in times of uncertainty and heightened fear, with alcohol and domestic abuse spiking, depression spiking,” he said.

“People need the opportunity to experience supportive faith-centered community and find the peace that only comes through Jesus,” Visconti added.

The bash is open to students in K-12 grades but to get a backpack, students or their parents must RSVP at generation.church and both student and parent must be present to get one.

This is the fifth year the church, which also has a Mesa campus, is holding the bash.

Brendon Hoorneman, one of the church’s administrators, has explained in the past that it started when church leaders saw how worried some parents were about the cost of supplies and other things needed to start the new school year.

The church looks at the bash as putting a core belief into practice.

“Generation Church exists so that people far from God can experience new life in Jesus,” Hoorneman said. “That new life is one full of people who love and support one another. This event shows, in a tangible way, the love God has for us by the church showing love to the community.”

You don’t have to belong to Generation Church to donate to the Bash or the food bank through which it serves countless number of needy people in Ahwatukee.

Food or school supplies can be dropped off at the pantry on the church campus 11 a.m.-noon Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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