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Showing Christ’s love

Nine-year-old Craig Gunter, who attends Ironton schools, points out the backpack of his choice.

Annual event is St. Paul’s way of following its mission

The colors of the tent housing this year’s Tools 4 School may have been the orange and black of Ironton High’s Fighting Tiger, but St. Paul Lutheran Church’s giveaway was open to anybody in need.

Showing up at least an hour before the 10 a.m. start Saturday were families were lined five across extending back four blocks from Center Street to Park Avenue.

Volunteers were waiting for the signal to remove the orange webbing that blocked the crowd from the mountain of book bags under the tent. That’s when the Rev. David Ritchie asked them all to walk back to St. Paul’s parish hall to pray.

About 60 men, women and teens dressed in jeans, shorts or pedal pushers with paper name tags stuck on T-shirts listened as Ritchie, his voice breaking at times and sweat dripping from his hair, thanked them for spending their Saturday this way.

“This is wonderful,” he said. “Look around at yourselves. This is what the mission of Christ is all about. It is you all doing for people out there. This is what our Lord asks. This wouldn’t happen without you.Thank you one and all. This is such a needed ministry.”

Then the volunteers went back to their posts under the tent to register families before their children were allowed to pick out their bag filled with supplies.

Again this year All Saints Lutheran Church in Worthington partnered with St. Paul’s, sending down 33 volunteers to help with the distribution besides providing about half of the 1,900 book bags expected to be given away by noon.

All Saints’ original involvement was directed by the Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio that oversees charitable projects in 33 counties in the state, when the church reached out to the organization to help in its work.

“They said Lawrence County is part of our region but is so far away,” Kay Labosky, director of lay ministry at All Saints, said. “The church there is small, but active and passionate.”

So seven years ago All Saints made its first trip to Ironton bringing used clothing, health and school supplies to what can now be called the inaugural giveaway.

“We happened to have a few boxes of school supplies,” Labosky said. “And that was what people were clamoring for.”

Now each year the event has increased the number of supplies it gives away to children from kindergarten through high school and has gained the support of downtown Ironton churches.

This was the second year for Deb Hagerty, a member of Christ Episcopal Church, to volunteer, joining in days before the giveaway to help pack the book bags with age appropriate materials.

“This is a great cause,” she said. “They do a really good job organizing this. There are a lot of dedicated people and I am honored to be here.”