Organizers of the recent Back to School Bash knew based on atmosphere alone the event was a success, but the proof was in the pudding.
There were nearly 700 attendees, 344 backpacks handed out, 570 hamburgers and hot served, 19 community booths on hand and 54 volunteers.
The community showed up in grand fashion on Sunday afternoon for the Centro Hispano and Platte County T4C (Time for Change) Back to School Bash outside Columbus Fire Department.
“The Back to School Bash event was a huge success and we couldn't have done it without staff, volunteers, donors, and vendors/booth participants that made it a party!” said Centro Hispano Communications and Events Director Katherine Lopez, who is also a member of the Columbus City Council.
“I couldn't be more proud and honored to be a part of this event that embodied what community really means here in Columbus. It is the spirit of unity and compassion that makes the Back to School Bash so deeply rewarding. We are not just providing school supplies; we are nurturing the dreams and aspirations of these children. We are empowering them to strive for excellence and reach their full potential. It's an investment in their future and the future of our community.”
As part of the festivities, attendees got to enjoy fellowship with their neighbors while also collecting school supplies for kiddos who will be in kindergarten through eighth grade this fall. There was also plenty of good food coming off the grill and other treats.
Of course, none of it was possible without all of the sponsors who helped make it happen. Cargill Meat Solutions donated their time and monetarily; Hy-Vee supplied all of the hamburgers, hot dogs, buns and water; Nebraska Public Power District helped fund additional activities such as Kona Ice; while Columbus Nebraska Professional Firefighters – Local 1575 – offers manpower and funds to help provide bounce houses for area youth.
Other sponsors that helped make sure the event was successful were El Patron, La Popular, Burrito King, Garnacha’s, Chonas, Olga’s Shop, Burrito House, Sunshine & Snacks, El Rinconcito 2, El Rey, Cardona Company LLC, Queen Body Sculpting, Cleaning Services, Sabrina’s, Guatemex and Pollo Loco.
Columbus Police Department officers relished the chance to hang out and interact with members of the community during the event.
Miguel Angel Chavez with Deaf Audio helped keep the energy high throughout the afternoon, while CFD was happy to have the event hosted outside its facility.
“I thought it was a great example of how partnerships within the community can come together for the betterment of our citizens,” Columbus Fire Chief Ryan Gray said. “Centro is a great example of an organization that truly does have the best interest of the community in mind. It was an honor to provide them with the facility and grounds to hold the Back to School Bash. I believe it was a huge success.”
Centro Hispano Executive Director Karina Perez said she was appreciative of everyone who made the event possible, crediting all the sponsors and volunteers for their generosity, as well as the community for coming out.
Mayor Jim Bulkley was among the many volunteers pitching in where he could, spending time handling backpack distribution, collecting trash and serving food. Chief Gray and CFD members also were busy interacting with the community.
“Thank you to Mayor Bulkley for joining us and really showing up to serve his community. You could see him doing just about everything …” Perez said. “Thank you to Chief Gray for being a gracious host and allowing us to use his amazing facilities and his amazing team. We could have not done this without his assistance and his dedication to serving the City of Columbus.”
Centro Hispano is a nonprofit organization established in 2009 that provides services in immigration, education and business, primarily in Platte, Colfax, and Madison counties. The Platte County Time for Change (T4C) Anti-Gang Coalition aims to unite youth, families and community partners in the prevention and intervention of youth involved in gang activity.
Lopez was undoubtedly proud of how the Back to School Bash turned out.
“This is my favorite event we host with Platte County - Time for Change and it's always so remarkable to see the kids be in their element and enjoy this day! We create a warm and welcoming environment, fostering a sense of belonging and encouragement within the community. It's incredible to witness the connections and friendships that form among the attendees, from volunteers to parents to students,” Lopez said.
“Together, we build a network of support that extends far beyond the event itself. Moreover, this event serves as a reminder that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. It reinforces the importance of giving back to our community and caring for one another. As we come together to donate our time, resources, and love, we create a ripple effect of compassion that reaches far beyond the immediate event.”