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The Maslow Project “Back to School BBQ,” held Tuesday at Alba Park in Medford, was a family event for Ashley Sanders, 11, her 2-week-old sister, Tayler Sanders, and Tayler's aunt, Stephanie Sanders, 19. Ashley and other local students scored free school supplies at the event. - Bob Pennell

Two hundred gather for school supplies

Reggae music, tasty food and free school supplies drew dozens of appreciative families, who braved scorching summer temperatures, to Medford's Alba Park Tuesday afternoon.

Sponsored by the Maslow Project, a nonprofit organization that works with homeless youths, the "Back to School BBQ" provided a three-hour opportunity for kids to stock up for the upcoming school year.

To help struggling families, the Medford School District scaled down its elementary student supply lists this year and standardized them for all 14 grade schools.

The district also asked donors to contribute supplies to the Maslow Project, rather than to specific schools, to make sure supplies went to the neediest students at all campuses.

The Maslow Project targets walk-in homeless students but will also assist low-income students with free school supplies after eligibility is determined over the phone. Director Mary Ferrell said more supplies will be distributed to qualified students Monday, Aug. 30, and Tuesday, Aug. 31, at the First Presbyterian Church of Medford, 85 S. Holly St.

"We're opening it up to any kid in Jackson County," said Ferrell. "They do need to call to sign up, though."

Ashley Sanders, 11, came early and scored donated notebooks, paper and other school supplies brought in by community churches.

"I didn't get any colored pencils," said Ashley. "But my niece did. I think it was really cool they helped us out like that, especially for the kids that can't afford it."

Chrisanna Wesner's three children, Olivia, 14, Ben, 12, and John, 10, had their hands dipped in the candy bowl at Armadillo Technical Institute, while Wesner chatted with a representative from the Rogue Valley's only public charter school.

"I'm looking at it for my 12-year-old," she said.

Mary Knepp, Maslow's program coordinator, said Tuesday's event drew about 200 people, around 100 fewer than last year.

"But that's OK," said Knepp. "We're providing the school supplies, and our partnering agencies here are helping with information."

Quality Catering provided the free lunches, Costco donated dozens of cookies and Alcyon Massive, Aaron Reed and Matt Wells kept fingers snapping and toes tapping with their funky beat.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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