By Clint Confehr
NASHVILLE, TN — Parents of 1,000 students may check off backpacks and basic supplies from their back-to-school shopping list Saturday after attending Love’s Healthy Start Festival in Hadley Park.
It’s the fifth annual back to school festival organized by state Rep. Harold M. Love Jr., who remembers that he was fortunate to have parents providing what he needed when he was a Metro public school student.
Now, pastor of Lee Chapel AME Church, Love is helping his community.
From 9 a.m. to noon Saturday near Hadley Park’s band shelter, 1,000 students may receive book bags, books, 12 pencils, crayons, 100 sheets of paper, two folders and rulers, Love said. Students and their relatives are offered vision and health screenings courtesy of volunteers from Meharry Medical College.
Last year they “found 2-3 children who needed glasses, so they passed that along to their parents,” says Mary Ann Lacy of Ames Drive, a licensed practical nurse who retired after 37 years at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Glucose tests are also conducted to see if parents and children have high blood sugar levels.
Blood pressure and cholesterol tests and other health screenings will be available. Screenings on Saturday don’t qualify as physical exams.
Students and faculty from Tennessee State University’s nutrition and agricultural schools will demonstrate preparation of healthy meals, Love said. State education department representatives will explain how Tennessee provides free community college for recent high school graduates and others without a college degree.
Lacy, a long-time member of St. Paul AME Church, volunteered four years ago when Love — then St. Paul’s pastor — sought help for the festival’s first assembly line filling book bags. “I just enjoy serving the Lord,” Lacy said.
She’s also helped wash fruit before distribution. Fruit and vegetables will be available Saturday.
Also supporting Love’s Healthy Start Festival at 1037 28th Ave., North are: Advance Financial 24/7 with 500 backpacks; Tyson Foods with free grilled chicken sandwiches; and 100 Black Men, the Urban League, Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Davidson County Sheriff’s Department, Nashville Greek Picnic, Hella Temple #105 Shriners, The Links Inc., Otter Creek Church, Gamma Phi, David Lipscomb University, Kappa Lambda Omega, and the 18th Avenue Family Enrichment Center.
“The whole theme is ‘Everybody Partners’ with us to do something that makes the festival wonderful,” Love said. “This is not a grant-funded initiative. The bulk of it is from donations.
“My motivation for this is knowing that not all parents may have the financial resources” to provide what he had when going back to school, said Love, 44, noting that “school has become more expensive.”
A production line to fill backpacks is scheduled Friday, July 28, at Lee Chapel. Age-appropriate books will be included.
“We’ve already reserved the gymnasium if it rains” Saturday morning at Hadley Park, Love said. With 1,000 book bags available, he anticipates attendance of more than 2,000 people. Each student must be accompanied by an adult.