WILKES-BARRE — The Rev. Diane Roberts remembers starting a new school year as a child without adequate school supplies and with a heavy spirit.
She is determined not to let that happen to children in her neighborhood. So, for the past 10 years, as director of Food for the Souls Ministries, she has attempted to improve the lives of youngsters and to simply make them smile.
“I told God, ‘When I’m grown, I’m going to help children to feel good and equip them with what they need,’” Roberts said.
As part of keeping her promise, she helped to organize Saturday’s Back-to-School Block Party; the event was an opportunity to both provide school supplies to disadvantaged children and to make Grove Street, between Dana and Stanton Street, come alive.
Event organizers gave away book bags overflowing with school supplies. Young participants, meanwhile, enjoyed activities such as jumping in the “bounce house,” getting their faces painting and eating free food.
Brittany Tirado, 20, said she has been working alongside Roberts for the last five years doing “anything that is needed.”
“I will be leaving to train for the military in a few days,” said Tirado, surrounded by her family, “and this is my last opportunity to help out in my neighborhood for a while.”
Children seemed to absorb the positive spirit as they danced and took part in the activities.
“I got my face painted and it made me feel happy and beautiful,” said Etani Adams, 8.
Aniyah Taylor, 7, said that the bounce house was her “absolute favorite,” but that she also liked the food and the music.
Roberts credited Shawn Walker, pastor of Wilkes-Barre’s First Baptist Church, with sharing her vision of the church actively involved in bettering the lives of those in the community.
“We fully support Diane and Food for the Souls Ministries in this effort and other service events throughout the year,” Walker said.
Tina Jones, a volunteer selling homemade lollipops Saturday and donating proceeds to the organization, also seeks to feed both the body and the soul. She is quick to point out that the sweet treats include a Bible verse, Acts 2:38, on the sticks.
Roberts lauded members of the community and area businesses for making the event possible. Carmen and Co., Marquis Art and Frame, Tony’s Meat Market and the Pepsi Cola Co. were among those that donated products or funding.
One young man, hula-hoop in hand, said, “This is going to be a great school year.”
Roberts wholeheartedly agreed.
Those people wishing to assist Roberts in her efforts throughout the year can contact First Baptist Church, Wilkes-Barre, at 822-7482.