Mothers In Action’s highly-anticipated 23rd Annual Back to School Health Fair & Supply Giveaway efforts did not disappoint.  Over 1,000 underserved children in the Los Angeles area and surrounding communities received fully loaded backpacks, ppe supplies, and a recyclable bag with a plethora of valuable resource information on health, free and/or low-cost insurance, educational and mental health services, nutrition, childhood lead poisoning, and COVID -19 testing/safety/vaccine opportunities. Approximately 500 of the backpacks were distributed directly to individual families and programs serving foster care, the homeless, and mentoring youth prior to the grab-and-go event on August 7, 2021, at Exposition Park. Over 1,500 underserved youth have received fully loaded backpacks due to this year’s efforts by MIA and their sponsors.

Some of the children received bicycle safety equipment, such as helmets, glow-in-the-dark slap bracelets, lights provided by California Highway Patrol (CHP), lunch sacks, water bottles, coloring books on nutrition, and so much more. 7-Eleven franchisees from Adams Blvd. and Grand Ave., San Pedro Ave. and Washington Blvd., and Figueroa Blvd. and MLK, Jr. Blvd., provided water for the event. The owner of four 7-Eleven stores, Mr. Isingh, was on-hand serving refreshments of fresh fruit, water, drinks, donuts, and coffee to the attendees and volunteers. LA County Office of Education (LACOE) even had their new beautiful school bus on display that opens up to a full-size preschool classroom (but could not be opened due to COVID-19 restrictions).

This year’s Premier Presenting sponsor was Blue Shield Promise.  Blue Shield of California is an independent member of the Blue Shield Association and the Presenting sponsor was once again the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade (LABC), the nonprofit organization that founded Mothers In Action and supported since its inception. LABC also brought out their COVID-19 task force to display signs that conveyed and visualized the importance of COVID-19 vaccines as they distributed outreach information to each car that attended the grab-and-go event.

According to Tracy Mitchell, current president of Mothers In Action, “This event would not have been possible without our visionary and founding president, the late Brenda Marsh-Mitchell and our former board chair, the late Lillian Mobley, who created this event to address untreated health issues in underserved families due to no health insurance; because they understood that children fail because they cannot hear, see or don’t feel well and to provide the essential tools needed to start a successful school year. This annual event has become the gift that keeps on giving every year, beyond what we could have ever imagined. The seeds planted by our visionary continues to garner support for the event.  To date, we have provided school supplies to over 28,000 school-aged children during our 23 years of conducting this event.”

Here are a few quotes from some of the co-chairs, sponsors, and attendees of this year’s event:

Event Co-Chair, Councilmember Curren Price, of Council District 9, was excited to support and host such an altruistic endeavor in his district. “I’m just so proud to be partnering with Mothers In Action, Brotherhood Crusade, and a number of nonprofit organizations who are here for the community, providing backpacks and school supplies for our youth,” he said.   “I’m here because we demonstrate by our actions, including these organizations who actually show up, passing out supplies and being a part of the process.  Mothers In Action is a well-known organization with a lot of credibility and history in our community, serving families, serving kids, and I’m just excited to be a part of it.”

Event – Co-Chair, Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, of Council District 10, stopped by the give-away to help pass out supplies and talked about the importance of supporting the young students of South Los Angeles.  “Well, you know I’m a Pee Chee folder kid.  From Main Street and Ascott elementary schools, Carver Junior High, and graduating from Manual Arts High.  So, all the way through LAUSD, those Pee Chee folders followed me. “If you want to have success, you have to be equipped, if you want to be equipped, students have to have school supplies.  Mothers In Action is doing the basic work of saying we are here.  And that’s what community does,” he stated. “What we are trying to do is create a sense of hope in what communities can be and do if we bind together.”

Event Co-Chair. Dr. George McKenna, III, School Board member of District 1, came to welcome some of the families back for a safe and productive school year after being on distant learning after 1.5 years due to the COVID19 pandemic.  “I am very proud of the work that Tracy, the Mitchell family, and Mothers In Action has and continues to do to carry on the legacy of their mother and grandmother and the mission of MIA to improve the quality of life of the underserved families in the community, and help LAUSD children return to school with the supplies they need to start the school year. I have known the Mitchell family since they were very young children as a board member of the Brotherhood Crusade, serving the community with their mother Brenda Marsh-Mitchell.

Stacy Hill-Williams, director of Communications & Development at the Brotherhood Crusade says serving the people is her passion. “We are so filled with hope and love to be able to support our community.  We have to take care of each other and we have to give back,” she said.

“Being the 23rd year that Mothers In Action has done this, just shows the commitment they’ve had to the community all these years.”

Christanne Fuston, branch manager of Chase Bank on Crenshaw Blvd. and Vernon Blvd., along with her colleagues, passed out fully-loaded backpacks and ppe supplies to appreciative parents and their children. “This event is significant because time and time again, our community struggles to gather the resources needed to manage all of their children’s needs.  Back-to-school events such as this, inspire communities to come together and witness our local business owners, our nonprofits, financial institutions, and health care providers, etc., provide fundamental supplies to students returning back to school after being home for more than a year.  This process is monumental in strengthening our partnership and Chase’s commitment to giving back to the community,” Fuston said.

 Jackie Houston-McNeal, the Foster Care/Adoption Committee of FAME of Los Angeles, “A heartfelt “Thank You” for the kind and generous donations to this year’s Back to School Drive for Foster Children.  Because of Mothers In Action’s giving, we were able to provide 100 backpacks to foster youth. Your multiple donations filled so many hearts with joy and confidence.  Thank you so much for your continued support for the last seven years in honor of Brenda Marsh-Mitchell’s passing, and for helping foster children begin a new school year ready, prepared, and in a positive way. May God richly bless you all. With much appreciation and gratitude,” she said.

Adreanna of South L.A. drove through the giveaway line and was grateful for the kind acts shown. “School supplies can be expensive. This event is important because we needed assistance with the school supplies, so this was a good opportunity.  It was also a good opportunity for the kids to see how the community gives back to the neighborhood,” she said.

Courtney Johnson of Los Angeles brought his two boys to take advantage of the free giveaway. “They are helping out the community and the people by giving out the much-needed resources, and we are very happy to be a part of it.  It’s important that the boys have the right school supplies and everything they need to get a fresh start in school and be successful in the classroom. Thank you!” said Johnson.

CHP Officer Amber Wright enjoyed helping with lines and giving out supplies with her fellow colleagues. “Today, we’ve been giving to our community, getting the kids ready for school with backpacks and supplies they might need.  And just really trying to prepare them for their future,” who also said these kinds of events can’t be taken for granted. “You never know what families have gone through during this pandemic.  For us [officers], being able to engage with the kids, giving back, and putting a smile on their faces, it’s important for us to embrace that role.”

Mothers in Action, Inc. thanks their village of chairs, Fabian Wesson and Yvonne Wheeler, co-chairs: Danny, J. Bakewell, Sr., chairman of Bakewell Media and executive publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper. Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmembers: Curren Price Jr. (CD9), Mark Ridley Thomas (CD10) and Marqueece Harris – Dawson (CD8) and LAUSD School Boardmember of District #1 Dr. George McKenna, III, the media sponsors at Bakewell Media, the Los Angeles Sentinel & LA Watts Times, sponsors: Blue Shield Promise, Brotherhood Crusade, The Cochran Firm of CA, Taste of Soul, The Hutt Group, Kaiser Permanente, LA Urban League, Cedars Sinai, LA COE, Children’s Dental FunZone, Metro, RFP Insurance, Sandra Evers Manley and Volunteers of America, donors, community partners and volunteers who contributed to the success of the event by providing resources, time and/or monetary support before and during the event.

“Special thanks to California Highway Patrol (CHP), Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), Office of Exposition Park Management, Explorer 1 Ambulance, Little Light International, volunteer groups and sponsors from Community Build, CRCD, PAVA World, Irvine Volunteer Association, LA Conservation Corps (LACC), and faithful employees of Bank of America under the direction of Michelle Avan who donated fully loaded backpacks that they shopped and provided with money from their own pockets year after year, without fail, including this year.  Rest In Peace Michelle Avan, beautiful soul you have gained your Heavenly wings. Prayers and condolences to your family,” said Mothers In Action President Tracy Mitchell.

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Photos by E. Mesiyah McGinnis / LA Sentinel