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Supply giveaways lend a hand to families

  • 13-year-old Thomas Page student Isabella Godleski and 11-year-old Technology Middle School student Alice Matticola are seen holding up greeting signs at the Discovery Church Backpack and School Supply event at the Community Center this past Sunday. Robert Grant

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
August 10, 2018

New book bags, binders, notebooks, highlighters, pencils, crayons, clothes and more can all add up to a costly back to school list for students returning to class in a few weeks; however, several community school supply drives in Rohnert Park and Cotati are helping families get ready with supply giveaways at various events throughout the month. 

Last weekend the Discovery Church of Rohnert Park held a backpack giveaway and kid activity event at the community center. In addition to giving away backpacks, school supplies like paper and notebooks, were provided along with clothes and other back to school must haves.

Jeriann Bjugstad, event coordinator for the backpack drive, said the goal for this year’s drive was to hand out around 1,000 backpacks, doubling their goal from last year, which was a huge success.

“The first year we did about 250, we had no idea what to expect and then last year we doubled that and ended up giving 500 kids supplies. We ended up having to send people out because we ran out of items and we had to go out shopping two times during the event to get more, so this time we doubled our goal to be able to serve 1,000 children,” Bjugstad said.

Sunday’s event also provided various writing and arts and crafts supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils, glue, crayons, makers, rulers and even clothing items.

Fun-filled kid activities were also provided; face painting, bouncy houses and even a visit from the Rohnert Park Public Safety fire department.

In the end, Bjugstad said despite not yet having a complete and final count of items given away, the drive seemed to be another success. 

“It went very well. We had the kids playing around even before we opened and we had over 600 people in the space of two hours. A lot of families came out,” she said.

The event was open to all and there were no requirements to come out and grab some supplies.

Deena Morgan, a Rohnert Park mother of an incoming 2nd grader, 4th grader, 5th grader, 7th grader, 8th grader and 9th grader, came out with her girls to pick out school supplies and take advantage of the family friendly event, which also boasted food and a DJ.

“It was pretty cool, they had stations where you could pick out your backpack then fill it up with paper, pens, binders ect… For any parent living in Sonoma County where it is so expensive to live, this is helpful! Our schools do provide a lot of things but with budgets it’s nice… to give back to the community,” Morgan said. 

According to Bjugstad, Discovery Church Founding Pastor, John Pita and his mantra of reaching out to the community served a bit as the impetus for creating a community backpack drive for families and their children.

“From the very beginning… my wife Vanessa and I dreamt of leading a church that wasn’t internally focused, but externally focused, in other words, a church that is passionate about reaching out to the city,” Pita said in a statement.

In addition to the church’s giveaway event, there are other organizations reaching out to families and teachers who need supplies.

According to Ryan Kurada, an elementary school teacher at University Elementary at La Fiesta, the Mattress Firm at 6089, Redwood Dr., in Rohnert Park is doing a school drive for foster kids through Sept. 2. Monetary donations can be made on their website at:, or you can bring in new school supplies to any store.

Signature Homes is also having a backpack drive and people can also drop off supplies for grades K-3, 4-8 and 9-12 at their location at 5362, Kelliann Place. The drive goes until Aug. 13 and for a detailed list of goods needed, visit: 

The Boys and Girls Club of Central Sonoma County is hosting their “School supply challenge” event where residents can drop off supplies at three different locations: Oliver’s Market at 546, E Cotati Ave., Office Depot at 321, Rohnert Park Exp. and at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Sonoma Wine Country at 1, Doubletree Dr.

The Cotati Police Department is also working on project “back to school,” an effort to supply all grades at Thomas Page Academy with new school supplies. The police department will be handing out materials Aug. 14 and 15 around 8:30 p.m. The idea stemmed from Sgt. Paul Goodin who wanted to partake in some form of community outreach and who’s sister is a school teacher.

“We’re doing this to support Thomas Page and all the students and families,” said Cotati Chief of Police, Michael Parish, who will be working with officers to package up items this weekend.

As for teachers, Kurada said there is an easy and user-friendly way parents can donate to help teachers in the classroom.

“For supporting teachers, I always direct people to where families can contribute funds towards special projects and supplies that local teachers would like to incorporate in their classrooms,” Kurada said in an email. “Alternatively, families can contact their child’s school directly and inquire what supplies are needed.”