ST. CLOUD - Hundreds of backpacks, pencils and notebooks were given away to make sure kids in St. Cloud have supplies for the school year.

Saturday afternoon kids and their families had the chance to stop by Promise Neighborhood in St. Cloud and receive a backpack full of supplies to make sure the kids are ready for school.

John Smith is the Chair of the Executive Committee for Promise Neighborhood. He says it's not just about backpacks and school supplies.

"We need to have conversations with our kids about school and education. The backpacks are important but getting the community together to talk about these things is also important."

The Promise Neighborhood Back to School Celebration was also an opportunity for Smith and other community leaders to build a relationship with kids and families in the area. He says these relationships are important to help break the cycle of poverty.

"Some of the kids that are here will have the opportunity to have positive relationships with adults. Some of the families that are here will view us as their friends and allies. All this will help [us] make the connection to the services that are available to them. We have to help bridge those gaps."

Smith and Promise Neighborhood have made "bridging the gap" part of the center's philosophy.  One of the other ways they are helping bridge the gap is by connecting families with organizations like Lion Community Enrichment Programs, that specialize in mental-health awareness in African-Americans.

Founder and Executive Director of Lion Community Enrichment Program, Kenneth L. Hanna, Jr says, events like this help his organization get in touch with people who need help.

"Some of the young people that come through [Promise Neighborhood] have witnessed or been a victim of trauma, that can affect how they will function in school. Mental health has to figure into the whole equation to make sure the kids can learn."

Promise Neighborhood hires all of their staff from the community they serve and offer child and adult programs.

Justin LaBounty