BARM, Chevron hold annual Back-to-School carnival

The annual Back to School Celebration, hosted by the Bay Area Rescue Mission and Chevron Richmond, brought music, meals, treats, carnival games and a flurry of fun activities to Nevin Park in the Iron Triangle neighborhood of Richmond. (All photos by Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

Richmond’s Nevin Park was recently transformed into a lively carnival that drew hundreds of children, parents and other community members to a celebration of learning.

The annual Back to School Celebration, hosted by the Bay Area Rescue Mission and Chevron Richmond, brought music, meals, treats, carnival games and a flurry of fun activities to the Iron Triangle park.

Nearly all the event’s booths and activities were staffed by Chevron employees—all part of the company’s Fall Volunteer Campaign, which sends hundreds of employees out into the community to volunteer on projects benefiting local nonprofit organizations.

“The Bay Area Rescue Mission has been reaching out to Richmond’s inner-city kids doing an event like this for more than 25 years,” said the organization’s President & CEO John Anderson.

Twelve years ago, the event was moved from the Bay Area Rescue Mission’s Macdonald Ave. headquarters to Nevin Park due to its growth. Andersen expected between 500 and 1,000 kids  attended this year’s event.

 “We do it because we want the kids to know how much we value them and how much God values them,” Anderson added. “And to have an impact helping them to stay involved and to celebrate going to school.”

Providing the theme for the Back to School Celebration was the Dr. Seuss book, “My Many Colored Days,” which also echoed throughout various paintings displayed throughout the park that Chevron volunteers painted prior to the event. During the celebration, there was a book reading and every child who attended received an orange bag with Dr. Seuss’ book inside.

Throughout the event, smiling children of all ages could be seen enjoying a whole host of exciting activities such as an Oakland A’s pitching inflatable, jump houses and carnival games like chuck-a-duck, bean bag toss, plink and a ball toss. Popular attractions among the littles that day were the “Green Eggs & Slime” slime-making station, a face painting area and the Chevron Fire Department and fire truck.  Popcorn and snow cone stations scattered throughout the park also proved popular with attendees.

“About one month ago, we did another event right before school and we gave away 1,056 back-to-school backpacks filled with supplies,” said Anderson about an Aug. 12 event the organization and Chevron hosted.

“The Rescue Mission—yes, we do provide shelter and meals and help men, women, boys and girls who are homeless and desperately needy—but we also love to do events like this where we are doing outreach to the community.”

“Chevron’s a great sponsor helping us to reach out to the community,” Anderson added.

So what does the future hold for the Bay Area Rescue Mission? As it turns out, it’s looking pretty bright, with an expansion of its Iron Triangle shelter on the horizon. According to Anderson, the organization “just received approval from the Richmond Planning Commission to build a new, additional center that will house 114 more women and children and so we’re very excited about that.”

As the Standard reported prior to the commission’s approval, the Bridge of Hope Project will construct a 9,553 square foot, two-story shelter for women and children lacking housing at 257 S. 3rd St., next to the Bay Area Rescue Mission’s existing shelter. Residents will enroll in a structured, 24/7 full-time supportive services that include meals, education, counseling, job, life-skills and more, according to city documents.

The new facility will include a landscaped outdoor courtyard providing a play area for toddlers and young children, and also outdoor tables and seating.

To learn more about the Bay Area Rescue Mission and its work, click here.