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Community Picnic in Boalsburg Provides Families with Free Backpacks & Shoes

by on August 17, 2014 1:41 PM

Adam Soonasra looked out from his mother’s arms at the backpacks spread out on a table in St. John’s United Church of Christ in Boalsburg. 

Adam is two-and-a-half years old and on the verge of starting preschool. As he looked at the collection before him, a brightly colored backpack in the shape of giraffe caught his and his mother’s attention at the same time.

Inside the backpack was a collection of school supplies: folders, papers, pencils and more.

Shannon Soonasra says she brought her son Adam out to St. John’s for the community picnic and back-to-school giveaway because of the high price of school supplies. With Adam’s father still a senior studying petroleum engineering at Penn State, she says their low-income family would’ve struggled to provide Adam with everything he needs to be ready for his first experience away from his family.

“This has made a world of difference for us,” Soonasra says. “It lets us give him more than we could offer.”

Adam loves his new backpack and says he’s excited to go to preschool. He looks forward to playing with friends on the playground.

“I’m going to learn all the things,” he exclaims.

Pastor Monica Ouellette of St. John’s UCC says that having an event like this is a way of spreading God’s love to Boalsburg. Her favorite part of the day was hugging the excited children who had just picked out new backpacks and shoes from the tables inside the church.

Outside on the church lawn, Boalsburg residents enjoyed free food at the community picnic under a sunny sky, while kids ran around playing games.

Boalsburg resident Chicoti Dungula, 16, came out with his family to get a new backpack. Though he was happy to have one, he says he’s not excited to go back to school.

“I could still use some more summer,” Dungula laments. 

Dungula’s mother, Cidalia Cornelio, says she loves living in Boalsburg, in part because of the many family-oriented events throughout the year. Between Sunday’s picnic and the town gatherings on every holiday, she says there’s a strong sense of community among Boalsburg residents.

“Stuff like this makes this a better place to live,” Dungula says. “It really does make it more of a community, not just a town, which is always nice.”


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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