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MANSFIELD -- The Oasis of Love Church’s fourth annual community block party is planned for Saturday, near the Ocie Hill Neighborhood Center.

The end-of-summer tradition features backpack giveaways and free haircuts to help local families prepare for the upcoming school year. Plenty of free entertainment is also on tap, including a rock climbing wall, bouncy houses and presentations around the theme, “Stop the Violence.”

“It takes a village to help one another, to aid for each other. Some people who come by are single mothers with five or more kids they need to get ready for the school year, and we can help take away the burden off some people in the community,” said Kay Smith, community organizer for the North End Community Improvement Collaborative and founder of Mothers United to SAVE (Standing Against Violence Everywhere). 

“For me, that's been the most awesome part of it all.”

Upwards of 4,000 people are expected to attend the community celebration between noon and 4 p.m. Saturday in the area of Bowman, Harker and Springmill streets. 

More than 1,000 backpacks, stuffed with age-appropriate school supplies, will be distributed. Backpacks are available for any Richland County student in Kindergarten through 12th grade. A portion of the backpacks are filled for the younger students, with items like crayons and markers. Backpacks for the older children might include rulers, highlighters and pens. 

A lengthy list of sponsors provide school supplies and funding for the giveaways. These include Mansfield City Schools, local restaurant owners and a handful of area churches. 

Throughout the afternoon, musical performances will recognize the theme, “Stop the Violence,” and relatives of local victims will speak about how violence has impacted their lives. 

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“People in the community don’t want violence. There’s lots of mothers and family members of victims speaking out about how it affects the family afterwards,” Smith said. 

Local victims will be recognized via t-shirts, which can be purchased for $10 apiece. Opportunities to personalize shirts with a family photo may still be available by contacting Eddie Love at 419-564-4950.

Smith hopes people will come by the block party and “just have a good time.”

Staff Reporter

Proud Pennsylvania native. Joined the staff in April 2017. Formerly Tracy Geibel.