Back-to-school preparations can be a drag, but officials from a local church are hoping to put a little pep in students’ step as they get ready to head back to the daily grind.

New Covenant Christian Fellowship Church in Newark will host a Back-2-School Jam from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, and church officials are welcoming local students and their families to come and help them ring in the upcoming school year.

The jam will be held at the Newark Senior Center, where church members have been meeting for worship since the church was founded in 2009. The event will feature free hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and soda, free school supplies and the chance to win a Kindle Fire.

The e-reader will go to the student who writes the best essay about bullying, said Samuel Cooper, a church member who is organizing this year’s fourth-annual Back-2-School Jam.

Cooper said about 100 people came out to last year’s back-to-school event, and he’s expecting even more this year. The church is sweetening the deal by handing out free backpacks and other school supplies donated by local businesses to all children who attend.

“A lot of the time, kids don’t have school supplies, so right away, they’re starting off the school year at a disadvantage,“ Cooper said. “We’re in an area where there is some (low-income) housing, where parents might not have enough money to buy what they need.”

Pastor J. Raymond Taylor, who founded the church three years ago after serving nine years as an assistant pastor in Wilmington, said part of the church’s outreach mission is to help feed local homeless, host community-wide health screenings and assist in crime-prevention efforts by bringing in members of local law enforcement to speak to children about staying safe.

“Once a kid is not educated, they tend to go towards crime,” Taylor said.

Saturday’s event will also include a moon bounce, face painting, gospel singers, kids’ games, a basketball tournament, free water ice and possibly free haircuts.

“It’s just going to be a fun-filled event for kids and families to let them know, ‘We’re supporting you,’” Taylor said. “These are hard economic times, and a lot of parents are unemployed, and we’re just doing what we can to help. Everybody’s getting together and making it happen. Because crime’s not going to stop itself.”

Local students interested inentering the essay contest to win a Kindle Fire should contact the church at newcovenant2010@gmail.com or at 302-757-0010 for specific instructions. The church will accept essay submissions during the Back-2-School Jam, and a panel of local educators will judge them and announce the winners during the church’s regular worship service at the Newark Senior Center starting at 10 a.m. Sunday. In order to win the prize, contestants must be present at the service, Taylor said. The church will also host a fashion show during the service.

IF YOU GO: Back-2-School Jam, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11 at Newark Senior Center, 200 White Chapel Road, Newark. Free, all welcome.

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