Children and their parents came by the hundreds to the parking lot of Salem Meats & Grocery in Zion on Saturday to pick up free backpacks filled with school supplies.
Of course, they also enjoyed crawling around on Zion police and fire vehicles, jumping in two bouncy houses rented by Amjad “AJ” Habbass, the owner of the convenience store at 2439 Galilee Ave., and the free hot dogs and drinks.
The End of Summer Block Party was a big success, according to organizers, which included Habbass, Clyde McLemore of Black Lives Matter Lake County and Cortez Carter, who owns Father Daughter Productions.
A much smaller giveaway was held last year.
“We did this last year and we wanted to make it bigger,” said Habbass, who has owned the store for 10 years. “I hope we can make it bigger every year.”
He gave away 800 hot dogs.
“It was hot,” he said. “We gave away a lot of water and pop and Kool-Aid.”
McLemore said the backpacks and school supplies mainly came from Black Lives Matter Lake County, Our Shining Stars Foundation in Zion, high school board member Gina Roberts and Beulah Park Elementary School Principal Curtiss Tolefree.
Zion Elementary School District 6 also donated nine boxes of supplies that were packed into more than 400 backpacks that were handed out to students attending the event.
“This was a fine example of business owners giving back to the community, and our community came together,” McLemore said. “We just want to help our children grow with education.”
In addition to everything else, Sancho Mack, who owns Luxury Mobile Cut, set up a barber chair and started providing haircuts for about 15 children.
“It worked out really well, and I was glad to be a part of it,” he said.
Habbas said the children were excited waiting in line for their haircuts.
“He did a good job. The people were loving it,” he said.
Habbas said he is already making bigger plans for next year’s event.