Kanapaha Presbyterian Church to host free back-to-school event August 13

Photo courtesy of Kanapaha Presbyterian Church

BY JARRED SPANOS, Alachua Chronicle Correspondent

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – As students across the US prepare to return to school following a scorching summer, Kanapaha Presbyterian Church (KPC) in Alachua County, Florida will be hosting a free back-to-school event on Saturday, August 13, to open their doors to the community and spread the word about their new Children’s Church program. 

Event coordinator Alen Vargas and church volunteer Elder Carolyn are ensuring there will be plenty of activities and attractions on offer to entice young people to attend. There will be arts and crafts, a raffle, a slip-and-slide, as well as a water balloon toss and other games. Kids will have the opportunity to make their teacher a gift and will be able to choose from a multicolored selection of free school supplies when they leave. 

Peckish visitors will be able to enjoy snow cones, popcorn, and cotton candy, while more substantial fare will be provided by El Punto Puerto Rican Cuisine, a food truck Vargas has been supporting since the height of the pandemic. She recently rediscovered the truck while looking for her cat Simba and invited its owner to set up shop at the event. Simba was later found. 

The pair are open about their reason for hosting a back-to-school event – they are hoping to grow their church. “We’re hoping the event will allow for more families to be part of our church community. Bringing in more families means a bigger community for the church, and if we can bring in more people, we can do more for the community,” says Vargas.

A better-supported church is not, however, the only purpose of the event. The pair are hoping for a close-knit bash that will allow students to “make new friends that they may see at school”. They add that parents who attend will be given an opportunity to meet other parents and that kids and parents will be able to team up and bond by making gifts for teachers. Vargas and Carolyn hope the event will be “joyful, wholesome, and nostalgic” and will get young people excited about school. “Education is everything,” says Vargas. “I always say knowledge is power,” Carolyn adds. 

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Another objective driving the event is KPC’s desire to promote its new Children’s Church, which will take place weekly in the form of a Sunday School-style service. It’s “free and all are welcome,” says Vargas. Carolyn was a public-school teacher for 31 years and will bring her ample experience as both teacher and church volunteer to her role in leading the Sunday program. “All are invited. That’s my mantra,” she says. 

“I think it’s of extreme importance to feel part of the community,” Vargas adds. “I went to Sunday School because my mom wanted me to have a foundation of faith. I think that’s important, as (children) grow.”

Carolyn says that she feels her own grandchildren have benefited from her association with the church over the years and hopes that through Children’s Church, more young people will get an opportunity to participate in faith-based or community-building projects that they may not have otherwise encountered. 

One of her grandkids is “14 now and he did Family Promise (a non-profit organization dedicated to improving life for the homeless) for a year, every time they had it. So (my grandchildren) really had an opportunity to serve the community and do things they would never have been able to do, had I not been part of this church,” Carolyn enthuses.

KPC was established in 1859. Asked what their church’s main values are, Carolyn suggests “Inclusivity. Everyone’s included, everyone’s respected, everyone’s honored and taught about Jesus and his message.” “Glorifying god by learning, living, and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. That’s our motto,” adds Vargas.

The KPC Back-to-School Bash takes place at 6221 SW 75th Terrace, Gainesville, on Saturday, August 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.