With five young children at her side, Linele Hill stood at the half-way point of a line full of hundreds of Hartford area residents awaiting a free backpack stuffed with school supplies Wednesday afternoon.
The Capitol Region Education Council hosted its third annual back-to-school block party at its headquarters on Charter Oak Avenue. Hundreds lined up on the block, expanding all the way to Huyshope Avenue.
Hill, a North End resident, waited in line more than an hour before the event began despite temperatures in the '80s.
"This event helps," Hill said. "We spend about $300 per child on uniforms and shoes so it's great [CREC] helps out with the backpacks."
In two days, CREC employees and volunteers stuffed the 1,200 backpacks with supplies that had been either purchased by CREC or donated by community leaders and residents, Aura Alvarado, the director of communications at CREC said.
When the event began in 2015, 600 stuffed backpacks were gone within a half hour of the event starting.
"So we doubled up," Alvarado said. "My dream is to fill the back packs so much you got to drag them out of here."
The backpacks and school supplies were given to students regardless if they attend one of CREC's 16 interdistrict magnet schools.
Greg Florio, executive director of CREC said they host the event because each child should feel comfortable and ready when they walk into school on the first day.
"If there's any event that exemplifies the CREC mission, it's this one," Florio said. "We had people sitting on our lawn, waiting for one of these backpacks, since noon."
The event had five sponsors and four city businesses, along with the offices of U.S. Rep. John Larson and Sen. Chris Murphy helping collect supplies. There were also free haircuts, face painting and a variety of treats available for children.
"I'm grateful to the supporters and sponsors who make events like this possible," Mayor Luke Bronin said. "There are so many schools represented here."
Janai Ortiz, 10, one of the children attached to Hill's hip and a soon-to-be fifth grader said it'll be much more exciting to return to school with new supplies.
"And I also can't wait to see my friends," she said.
On Thursday, the Wilson-Gray YMCA and CREC Trude Mero Resource Center are hosting a back to school event and giving away 700 free backpacks with school supplies. The event begins at 4 p.m. at the YMCA on Albany Avenue.