By Kyle Cushman, Correspondent
Mt. Zion Church partnered with other local organizations on Saturday to serve local children and prepare them for the upcoming school year.
Harris Community Center in Belton was filled with kids and adults, preparing them with safety information, backpacks, school supplies, haircuts, and even a chance to win a new bicycle. Mt. Zion Church partnered with the City of Belton, Belton Police Department, Belton Fire Department, CHIPS Volunteers, Belton Masonic Lodge #166, Nolan Creek Masonic Lodge # 227, Buffalo Soldiers, Yahweh Beauty Academy, Child Care Services and Central Texas Poison Control.
The CHIPS Volunteer unit was giving kids rides on a mini train. CHIPS stands for Citizens Helping In Police Service. “I really enjoy being a part of CHIPS,” said Laura Hutchens. “It’s a Saturday morning and we have an opportunity to serve our community. I love seeing the kids get so excited.”
Meanwhile, Belton Police Chief Gene Ellis greeted the kids and parents. “We are here today to serve you,” said Ellis as he spoke about safety. “Something you may not know is that even police officers cry sometimes. We cry when some things happen to people. We want things to happen to kids that will put a smile on our faces.” Ellis said. “It was their seventh year to help with the event. “We are giving some bicycles away, and we focus on teaching the kids safety. We teach them how to safely cross the street as well as get on and off school buses. We have some police vehicles outside that the kids can see as well.”
Teon Bass is the pastor at Mt. Zion Church in Belton. “God is good,” said Bass. “I see some things here that impress me today. There was a day when those of us in this room couldn’t work together. Today we can.”
Kevin Briscoe, Liz Whiteside and Bruce Whiteside were representing Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club of Killeen. Briscoe said, “We teach the children of today about the past. Buffalo Soldiers was officially formed on July 28, 1866 when Congress authorized the formation of six colored regiments in the U.S. Army. They received some of the worst equipment and clothing, while having some of the lowest desertion rates. They received their name from the Comanche and Cheyenne Indians. The buffalo was a sacred animal, so for them to receive the name Buffalo Soldiers was an honor.”
Steve Riley, owner of Yahweh Beauty Academy, gave away free haircuts to school kids. “We’ve been doing this for the last four years when I got my license in 2013,” said Riley. “I graduated from Belton High School in 2010, so we’re just giving back to the community.”
Candace Forbes and Patrice Gayle represented Child Care Services. “Our organization helps parents pay for daycare,” said Gayle. “The amount a family can receive is based on their income and number of kids, and the parents get to choose which daycare heir kids attend.”
Tommie Ferguson of Central Texas Poison Control was teaching kids about poison control and prevention. “We teach kids not to put things in their mouth,” said Ferguson. “We have a fake medicine cabinet that contains candy and medicine. We ask them to identify what is in the cabinet, and many times they cannot. When there are snake bites and drug overdoses, we get a call. We offer free 24-hour service to the public. Our goal is to prevent kids from being poisoned. In the event they are poisoned, a phone call can sometimes prevent a trip to the emergency room.”
Stanley C. Shider of the Nolan Creek Masonic lodge #227 gave backpacks to the kids. “We do this every year,” Shider said proudly. “There are over 100 backpacks with school supplies. Everything they need is in there. We don’t do this by ourselves. This is a joint effort to help the kids get a good start to the school year.”
Belton Fire Department brought a fire truck and an ambulance for the kids to see. Hunter Mitchell is entering pre-Kindergarten this year. When asked what he thought about the ambulance and fire truck, Hunter smiled and said, “I like it.”