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Annual Back to School Bash serves more than 500 students

Old Mill Ministries Pastor Andy Zeggert and his wife Lisa fill backpacks for more than 525 pre-k through twelfth grade Johnson County students at Old Mill Ministries’ Back to School Bash. Photos by Tamas Mondovics

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Old Mill Ministries Annual Back to School Bash has been a staple in Johnson County for many years. What started as a one-time outreach to help students at Laurel Elementary who could not afford a sweet treat at an ice cream party became an event providing 525 kids with necessary supplies this year alone. Local donors and approximately 40 churches of assorted denominations raised thousands of dollars to ensure local kids have what they need for the upcoming school year.

“The problem is that people have lost hope,” explained organizer and Old Mill Ministries Pastor Andy Zeggert. “We want to let them know that we haven’t forgotten about them. We serve an awesome God, and He hasn’t forgotten.”

Organizers split supplies into four age groups according to student grade requirements. These are pre-k, kindergarten through second grade, third through sixth grade, and seventh through twelfth grade. According to Zeggert, supplies come in quality backpacks and include items such as hygiene products, pens, pencils, magic markers, crayons, and more.
Supplies are in high demand. Zeggert reports they stocked up on the high school backpacks because of a shortage last year. The group also put together a “special” set of around 32 packs for JCMS and JCHS students attending band camp who could not come to the event.

‘We hope we never run out,” Zeggert said. “If we do, we take names and deliver to the people.”

The event began when Andy and Lisa Zeggert moved to town in 2007 and saw the need in the community. Both have deep ties to the education system and continue to work with students in the community. The event brings people together from North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and more to help, reportedly spawning around 50 volunteers this past weekend and 30 doing prep work beforehand.

The event is usually more of an open celebration with inflatables and food at the Old Mill Music Park. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers have turned it into a drive-through event at the Crewette Building, with the rental donated by Johnson County EMS. Families still received their food and supplies but in a slightly different setting.

Connections related to COVID-19 also have Zeggert worried about the annual Christmas event thrown for those in need, who sign up during the Back to School Bash. Organizers work with different companies to supply items, such as toys and coats for kids, but Zeggert expressed concern that sources may not be available this year.

“We’re going to get innovative,” Zeggert declared. “We’re not going to stop serving people.”

Anyone who would like to volunteer or contribute to future events can find out more at freedomconnections.net.