GAINESVILLE - Area schools will be opening for the new year in just a couple of weeks, and of course, that means parents are buying school supplies for their children. For many parents, it's an added expense that the family budget can't handle.
Enter Airline Baptist Church and the church's first-ever "Bags and Cuts" event held Saturday at the Hall County Farm Bureau Office on Limestone Parkway.
Church member Joseph Eterno and his wife Maggie spearheaded the event.
"We both, kind of at the same time, felt like God was saying that we need to put some feet to our calling and we both just put it together," said Joseph Eterno.
He was quick to add that volunteers from Airline, as well as from Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Oakwood and translators from the Chamblee area, came out in force to help with the five-hour event.
In addition to supplying backpacks for 400 students, the church had all of the supplies to fill those backpacks - binders, notebook paper, pens and pencils, for example.
"We're also offering hygiene packs for middle schoolers and high schoolers [with] soap and deodorant," said Eterno.
In addition, volunteers were giving back-to-school haircuts for students that wanted that service.
Camar Haynes, a rising 8th grader at Gainesville Middle School, was one of those who stood in line to get a few supplies for the new year. He said the items he was able to get will help him be ready when school opens next month.
"The notebook and paper - I didn't have any at the moment - and I didn't know if we had time to get any because my mom is really busy and my dad's always at work," said Haynes.
Camar's younger brother Anthony and his cousin Georgette Williams also received some supplies for the new school year. Williams said she liked the way the church allowed recipients to select the items they needed, making the event more personalized. And, she said the line moved quickly.
"The wait didn't bother me, it really didn't," she said. "It wasn't very long."
For most of the event's duration, the line to receive the free school supplies wrapped around the Farm Bureau building and into the parking lot.
Maggie Eterno said seeing the large number of people was a bit of a shock.
"You know, a lot of times we travel overseas [and] see the poverty, but I think it escapes us of how people live here just a couple of miles down the road from us. It's overwhelming," she said.
Based on what the Eternos witnessed Saturday, they said they believe there will be more events like "Bags and Cuts" in the future, and they hope other churches and businesses may want to partner in the effort.