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The Chautauqua Center Hosts Massive Community Backpack Giveaway Event

Having fun at the Backpack giveaway event. P-J photos by Timothy Frudd

After a two-year hiatus, the Chautauqua Center hosted a major backpack giveaway event at Jackson-Taylor Park Tuesday.

The community flocked to the event, as the Chautauqua Center gave away 300 of the nearly 2,000 backpacks it has prepared for those in need.

In addition to the backpack giveaway, the Chautauqua Center’s event included a bounce house, crafts, balloon animals, face painting, food, games, dancing, prizes and health screenings.

County Executive PJ Wendel attended the event in Jackson-Taylor Park and expressed his support of the Chautauqua Center’s community outreach.

“This is huge,” Wendel said. “The Chautauqua Center itself, being a federally qualified health center, provides health care that some people may not have.”

Having fun at the Backpack giveaway event. P-J photos by Timothy Frudd

Wendel said that in addition to providing health care, events like Tuesday’s community picnic and backpack giveaway, showcase the other resources the Chautauqua Center offers for the community.

Wendel said he talked to a mother at the event who said she could not afford to buy her child a backpack for school.

“It’s huge,” he said. “People don’t realize that this stuff goes on.

We really don’t realize the people that are in need.”

The Chautauqua Center’s successful backpack giveaway event highlights the effectiveness of different organizations working together to help those in need and impact the community.

Having fun at the Backpack giveaway event. P-J photos by Timothy Frudd

“This is a great way for the community, especially the Chautauqua Center, to help out,” Wendel said. “Not only in healthcare, but now you see its a multifaceted approach.”

Wendel said the event brings together several different community organizations and represents a blueprint for how other organizations can work together for the benefit of the community.

“Getting everybody together is something to focus on,” he said. “That’s what this is. This is about the kids, it’s not about anyone else. It’s really making sure that they’re healthy and their back to school needs are taken care of.”

After nine years of the Chautauqua Center hosting the event, Wendel hopes the program will grow even more for next year’s tenth anniversary of the event.

“These kids are going to remember this,” he said. “They’ve been looking forward to it. It’s a big event.”

Having fun at the Backpack giveaway event. P-J photos by Timothy Frudd

Matthew Hanley, marketing coordinator for the Chautauqua Center, also said the event makes a major impact on the community.

“We’re ecstatic about how this has turned out,” He said. “For the community, I think this is a great post-COVID-19 event. We can all get back together, we can all make things normal, we can have fun, we can have our vendors back. We haven’t been able to do this event for the last couple of years because of COVID-19.”

While the Chautauqua Center delivered 1500 backpacks to schools last year, the organization is excited to have been able to do an in-person event this year.

“This event is well worth it,” Hanley said, “to see all the smiles, to see everybody laughing. We’ll give away about 300 backpacks at this event alone.”

Tuesday’s event was attended by more people than the Chautauqua Center anticipated.

Having fun at the Backpack giveaway event. P-J photos by Timothy Frudd

“This is an outstanding turnout,” Hanley said.

Hanley said Monday’s event in Dunkirk saw a crowd of about 350 families and the Chautauqua Center gave away about 260 backpacks.

While the event’s attendance numbers in Dunkirk indicated a positive sign for an event following the pandemic, Hanley was “blown away” by the attendance at Jamestown’s event.

The Chautauqua Center’s backpack giveaway made a massive return Tuesday, as a large crowd from the community gathered for free school supplies and a fun event in Jackson-Taylor Park. P-J photos by Timothy Frudd

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