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Cuyahoga County officials host a back-to-school party to hand out supplies, highlight beneficial programs

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Posted at 6:20 PM, Aug 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-04 19:16:40-04

CLEVELAND — Cuyahoga County hosted a family fun day Thursday to raise awareness about the programs available to help families thrive. It was a party in Public Square with a purpose.

"It's amazing,” said 11-year-old Janiya Madden. “I got a bookbag full of stuff and I got another bookbag full of stuff and I got a hula hoop."

While children like Janiya made their rounds from table to table, picking up free goodies, their parents and grandparents got a chance to learn more about the programs offered in Cuyahoga County.

One such program, "Invest in Children," provides a continuum of targeted services, prenatal to kindergarten, for children and their families.

“We have upwards of 50 organizations with the county represented here,” said Janice Edwards with Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services.

She said all these programs are seeing huge demand right now.

“It's been unprecedented…the number of people who need help and have reached out and said they need services,” Edwards said.

With the family fun day, the county is putting a fun twist on a serious topic.

“The county wants to make it known we're here to help people,” Edwards said. “That's our jobs and our role."

An event like this not only breaks down barriers to access, it also breaks down the stigma that often comes with asking for help.

"It's been a huge success, and this is the kind of thing Cleveland needs,” Edwards said. "Some people unfortunately are a little reluctant to reach out."

Monique Dancy, her 4-year-old son and her two brothers stopped by, despite the rain.

“The backpacks that they got was a surprise to us,” Dancy.

While help may just be a phone call or click away, Dancy appreciates the face-to-face interaction.

“Because you get to know one-on-one because you have a physical representative here,” she said.

Janiya just couldn’t wait to open up her new bookbag and find out what was inside — "Notebooks, folders, glue, rulers, markers, crayons, colored pencils and pencils and hand sanitizer” — just some of the things that will help this soon-to-be 5th grader succeed in the classroom.

“I'll be ready for school,” she said.

Cuyahoga County leaders hosted the event today as part of Child Support Awareness Month. County officials say one in three Ohio children are involved in that program.