The Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley will hold a Back to School Giveaway featuring free backpacks from 10 am to 1 pm on Saturday, Aug. 17 at the Fowler Community Wellness Center at 502 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem.
Up to 300 backpacks will be given to children in grades K-12, who must be present to receive one. The event also will also feature free school supplies, haircuts, informational tables, food, music and more.
St. Luke’s University Health Network, a leading supporter of the Hispanic Center, will be on hand to offer free dental screenings through Star Wellness. The Tooth Fairy will give away free toothbrushes and offer lessons on proper dental hygiene.
Other participants include La Mega radio station, HGSK, Life Church, JSC Professional Staffing, Lupita Restaurant, CHIP health insurance, Costco, Giant, Wegmans, Target and CareerLink Lehigh Valley.
This is the second year HCLV is holding the event. Making sure students are ready and eager to learn is among the goals of the Hispanic Center as it seeks to break the cycle of poverty that many of its clients find themselves in.
Students who finish high school earn on average $10,000 more a year than those who drop out, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, people who don’t finish high school have less access to health care, resulting in poorer health and shorter lives. Eliminating health inequities is a major priority of St. Luke’s.
Marly Rodriguez, HCLV community resource manager, said the center served more than 1,000 families last year with the majority having moved to the Lehigh Valley from Puerto Rico following 2017’s Hurricane Maria.
“We wanted to help them grow in this community and let them know that we are here,” she said.
The event comes as the HCLV’s Fowler Community Wellness Center is in its second year of serving as a hub for social services, academic enrichment, wellness education, classes for English learners and job readiness and placement services.
St. Luke’s took a lead in helping the Hispanic Center’s May 2018 launch of wellness center. Network CEO and President Richard A. Anderson serves as a co-chair of the Vision for The Hispanic Center’s Renaissance Capital Campaign, which is raising $3,100,000 for renovation projects.
Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez said St. Luke’s has been instrumental in helping the Hispanic Center reach more people than ever. He said in addition to helping the community, the renovated bank building has helped revitalize a key stretch of the Fourth Street corridor.
“I appreciate the hard work and leadership that St. Luke’s and, in particular, St. Luke’s President and CEO Rick Anderson have put in to restore the Hispanic Center facilities and otherwise help the organization run efficiently and effectively,” Donchez said.
Lehigh University Professor Emeritus W. Beall Fowler, whose late philanthropist wife Linny Fowler donated the eponymously named building, and Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy are also co-chairs.
The campaign has seen completion of interior work at the Fowler Community Wellness Center, which houses HCLV, and at the Basilio Huertas Senior Center at 520 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem. Exterior work for the senior center building, which also houses the food pantry, and the Fowler building is targeted to be finished by fall 2019.
In addition, Victoria Montero, St. Luke’s manager of Health Equity Initiatives, is based at the Hispanic Center to help provide leadership in running the organization.