NORTH TAMPA — The Rev. Tommy Kyllonen believes when you honor God by doing good deeds in the community, the payoff is huge. And that’s exactly what members of his church and he, the lead pastor, intend to demonstrate during Crossover Church’s fifth annual Back 2 School Jam.
Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the church, 1235 E. Fowler Ave., will be giving away 1,000 new backpacks stuffed with school supplies to help youngsters start off the year right.
Kyllonen said last year the giveaways attracted an unexpected crowd of close to 2,500 people.
“It was really crazy but we learned a lot, and this year the process will be more streamlined,” said the pastor, noting that in an effort to lessen the wait time, registration for backpacks will begin at 9:30 a.m.
In addition, children accompanied by parents or guardians will be treated to free haircuts, food, face painting, arts and crafts, bounce houses, a sports zone and more.
There will also be a DJ on hand, as well as a live hip-hop concert.
As in past years, Kyllonen expects an abundance of youngsters from the church’s surrounding neighborhoods, composed mainly of low-income families.
The event is posted on the church’s Facebook page and some 2,500 flyers have been distributed throughout the community, including at the nearby University Area Community Center and the Children’s Board Family Resource Center.
“When people hear there are going to be free backpacks along with free food and fun at the event, they jump on it,” Kyllonen said.
Money to purchase the backpacks and fund the event mainly comes from donations within the church, Kyllonen said.
The University Area Community Development Corporation has also contributed $1,000.
“We live in an event-driven culture, but we need to get people out of the poverty cycle,” Kyllonen said. “We all kind of work together toward that end.”
Sorbida Lorenzo, Crossover Church’s volunteer and outreach coordinator, said representatives from several area organizations and agencies that offer resources to those in need will be on hand during the event.
Included among them will be Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Head Start, Seniors in Service, Hispanic Service Council, Community Fitness Advisor and Devereux Florida.
“We’ll also have a prayer station available,” Lorenzo said. “We do it for the purpose of getting people plugged in, not just at our church but others as well.”
On Sunday following church services, those who attended the Back 2 School Jam are invited to return for some afternoon fun at the Crossover Church-sponsored water park happening. There will be food trucks on site for visitors to purchase items.
“That’s my favorite part of the weekend’s activities,” she said.
“It was great last year,” he said.
Email [email protected] .org or call (813) 971-8887 for more information.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]