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Kingsport youth receive free school supplies, lunch

Valerie Lick • Jul 29, 2018 at 2:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Even with Tennessee’s tax-free weekend promising cheaper school supplies, back-to-school costs are still an obstacle for many parents. That’s why HOPE (Helping Our Potential Evolve) offered hundreds of Kingsport kids free school supplies on Saturday.

HOPE’s Back to School Giveaway, held at AT&T’s location on East Stone Drive, featured piles of backpacks, plates of hotdogs and droves of happy kids.

HOPE is a Kingsport-based nonprofit that offers a multitude of services and classes to help kids from low-income families succeed.

“To keep them off the street, to challenge them, to develop their skills in all areas … that’s the key of the program,” said HOPE President Chaiba Bloomer. The organization, which she has led for three years and been involved with for 10, aims to give kids the skills they need to become future community and business leaders.

Not only does HOPE assist local parents with one of the most stressful shopping seasons of the year, but it offers free classes, certifications and opportunities for mission trips and other community service. It also donates luggage for foster kids, promotes multicultural understanding and has a program teaching kids how to shop for and cook healthy food.

“Kids get certified in everything they can be certified in,” said founder Stella Robinette, explaining the organization’s focus on life skills and leadership skills alike. “We give them a hand up, not a handout. We want them to be able to take care of themselves as adults.”

Local organizations such as the Health Resources Center, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, AT&T, and First Tennessee partnered with HOPE to provide enough backpacks, notebooks and other essentials for the almost 300 kids the nonprofit serves.

The First Tennessee Foundation, a charitable branch of First Tennessee, even donated $1,000 to help HOPE continue serving Kingsport’s kids.

“We partner with organizations that are doing good work and financially support them,” explained Greg Perdue, a commercial banker with First Tennessee.

“Just reaching out and giving back … that’s what it’s all about,” Bloomer said as kids began to line up for lunch, wearing their colorful new backpacks.

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