Many come together to help families


ASHLAND — Long lines jammed Main Street downtown Monday night.

Among the throngs of families that filled the main thoroughfare for Ashland County’s Back-to-School Celebration, there was no shortage of enthusiasm and volunteers.

They handed out everything from cookies to backpacks for students and their families, collecting free back-to-school supplies, and also enjoying face painting, crafts, games, and a hot dog dinner.

“I don’t remember him being that tall,” said Sarah Wittman, whose son Nehemiah will be a first-grader at Mapleton Elementary.

He smiled as a member of Ashland University’s cheer, dance and stunt teams, who signed up to do face painting, decorated his face to look like Spider Man.

“They can choose the design,” said sophomore Adria Lemmon.

How Ashland Celebrates Back to School: “So Many People Came Together to Help So Many People”

Wittman expressed his appreciation for the back-to-school extravaganza. “Love it,” she said, noting the financial furlough crisis during COVID.

“That’s awesome – really, really useful, especially these days,” said Mapleton District’s Joshua Harvey. “So many people have come together to help so many people,” Harvey said.

Ashland High School volleyball players Emma Valentine, a junior; sophomore Taylor Schmitz; and freshman Camryn Cox were invited by their coaches to attend the event using their National Honor Society community service hours.

“We walk around asking people if they need help,” Schmitz said.

Ashland University volunteers included cheerleaders, dancers, Faith, Fellowship and Fitness (F-3) team members and basketball players, John said. Ellenwood, the university’s head men’s basketball coach.

“It’s great for the community. It feels alive here,” Ellenwood said.

First grader Madilee Butcher, left to right, preschooler Paisleigh Adkins and fourth grader Caleb Archer were among 120 children to get free back-to-school haircuts from stylists of Z's Hair Designs, left to right, Kelsey Baker, Katie Alberty and Sherry Zarnstorff Monday, August 15, 2022. TOM E. PUSKAR/ASHLAND TIMES-GAZETTE

The Ashland Board of Realtors and South Street Grille have teamed up to distribute hot dogs, grilled by the restaurant, real estate agent Misty Miller said.

“We split the cost and Culligan donated the water,” Miller said. “We wanted to be able to do something for the kids.”

2,000 people gather in downtown Ashland for a back-to-school event

“Line for the hot dogs,” shouted Ron Bolden, the student pastor of New Life Community Church, to help lead the crowd. “I help today in any way I can.”

Sunny McCarty, assistant director of ACCESS (Ashland Church Community Emergency Shelter Services), handed out bags of popcorn, “raising awareness and giving back to the community.”

Andrew Turner of Campbell’s of Ashland was handing out iced lemon cookies and, shortly after arriving, had looked at four cases.

Shannon Hill, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, alerted to the volunteer opportunity through Associated Charities, used the tic-tac-toe Frisbee.

Participants must keep the discs, of course, she said.

Chris Coffy helps outfit Dominick Lewis with his new backpack full of school supplies during the Back-2-School event in downtown Ashland on Monday, August 15, 2022. TOM E. PUSKAR/ASHLAND TIMES-GAZETTE

“We give away workbooks, flash cards and coloring books to anyone who wants them – ages 3 to 103,” said Brad Carrabine of Bendon Publishing.

“Anyone who wants something can have it,” he said.

The Truth Seekers Sunday School class at Ashland Grace Church handed out bottles of United Way water.

Richelle Nicholas, a school nurse at Edison Elementary, helped a county-wide contingent of school nurses distribute first aid kits, face shields, lip balm and hand sanitizer.

Rachel Jackson, SPARK Ohio, alerted attendees to the pre-kindergarten readiness program for kindergartners in the Ashland City School District, featuring eight to 10 monthly sessions of homeschooling and activities .

Madilee Butcher, entering freshman, gets a free haircut from Kelsey Baker of Z's Hair Designs while Caleb Archer, entering fourth grade, gets a haircut from Sherry Zarnstorff at the Back-2-School celebration at the center -City of Ashland on Monday, August 15, 2022. TOM E. PUSKAR/ASHLAND TIMES-GAZETTE

One of the highlights of the event was the free haircuts.

Hillary Heydinger of Z’s Hair Salon organized 21 stylists from four salons to supply them.

“All stylists love doing it, especially with the excitement of kids,” Heydinger said.

Adding to the fun, a photo shoot with ballerinas from the Opus II Dance Studio and the chance to “dip” State Highway Patrol Trooper Steve Hill and City Schools Resource Officer Ashland Jeremy Jarvis.

Sandra Tunnell, executive director of Ashland Main Street, said via text that around 2,000 people attended the event with around 100 volunteers between those representing various organizations and those affiliated with Main Street.

“(We) ran out of second, third and middle school backpacks, and did 120 haircuts…” Tunnell said.


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