Free bookbags by Freebandz

Published 9:06 pm Monday, September 9, 2019

Children got supplied for school on Aug. 31 by Suffolk resident Kurtisha Ewell, 25, and her friends in the Freebandz Back to School Bookbag Giveaway.

Parents brought their children to an East Washington Street lot during the bright, sunny day to get a free backpack. They then filled their new backpacks with free school supplies of their choosing, and they also got to fill their bellies with hotdog lunches.

The opportunity was a blessing for parents like Kertesha Artis. Each of this single mother’s three children were going to start school the following week. Techelle, 3, was starting pre-kindergarten, Tremont, 5, was starting kindergarten and Teshon, 8, was starting third grade.


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“Now I don’t have to spend the extra money that I really don’t have,” Artis said.

Kurtisha Ewell said she got the idea when she was sitting in church. She was thinking about how she could give back. She doesn’t have any children of her own, and as she put it, “you kind of get tired of spending (money) on yourself.”

“I was just like, how could I give back, especially to the less fortunate kids,” she said. “At the time I was (substitute teaching), also, and that’s when I was able to see that a lot of the children don’t have supplies.”

She and her seven friends in their self-named “Freebandz” group got started in early August. They made a flier and posted it on social media. They texted their friends to see if they could help get school supplies.

Ewell thanked Boogie’s Soul Food on West Washington Street and Mike Duman Auto Sales on Godwin Boulevard for allowing them to place collection boxes at each of their locations. She also thanked her friends, as well as her parents, Krystal Wingate and Curtis Ewell. Her father’s coworkers at Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center in Jacksonville, Fla., also contributed.

“I couldn’t have done this by myself,” she said.

She and her friends started with a goal of getting just 24 bookbags for their giveaway. They ended up more than doubling their expectations by providing 55 to 60, she said. She estimated that they collected more than $1,200 worth of school supplies.

The East Washington Street lot got very busy very quickly. Children were served on a first-come, first-served basis, and numerous children walked away with their new backpacks in the first hour alone.

“Hopefully we can make this an annual thing,” she said. “It had a great turnout.”