Summer Jubilee — Community comes together to help kids prepare for school

TULALIP — “It’s exceeded my expectations,” said Turning Point Community Church Pastor Mike Villamor, one of the organizers of this year’s “Summer Jubilee” Aug. 8.

“Our finances for this year’s event were less than half of what they’d been the previous year, so we had to cut our advertising budget completely, and we changed locations this year, from Comeford Park in Marysville to the Tulalip Amphitheatre. We even changed the day this year, from a Sunday to a Saturday, and we didn’t even have a sign on I-5 to let people know where we were. We gave people every reason not to show up to this year’s Summer Jubilee, but I can’t even keep count of how many have already showed up.”

The Summer Jubilee was started more a decade ago, to provide school supplies for children in the community who otherwise would have been unprepared for their first days of school. Villamor noted that the event began “with hand-outs to 50 kids in our basement,” but by last year, it had managed to draw an estimated 12,000 attendees and dispense school supply sets to 5,000 students, as well as close to 900 free haircuts. More than a dozen different local churches came together to coordinate and support the event this year, by providing planning, funding, promotion and volunteer manpower to serve the nearly 20,000 attendees expected for this year’s Summer Jubilee. Every part of the event was free of charge, funded by the churches, businesses and other organizations that chose to contribute, including a free hot dog barbecue, cotton candy and sno-cones, live music, entertainment and gigantic bouncy houses for kids to play on.

“My favorite part of this event is this tent right here,” Villamor said, gesturing to a covered area where dozens of area hair stylists were trimming the hair of students from throughout the region. “If you go to school on your first day looking disheveled, it brings your confidence down. These kids will be walking out of here today with salon-quality haircuts, which will make them feel good, which will make their chances of succeeding in school that much higher.”

Marysville’s Alyssa Ahlquist sat still for her haircut, as her parents picked up school supplies for her first day of kindergarten this fall. Alyssa’s father, Adam Ahlquist, explained that their family was attending the Summer Jubilee for the first time this year, and found out about it through a relative who works for the Marysville School District. While Alyssa enjoyed the free food and the bouncy houses, Adam admitted that the free haircut and school supplies have eased their financial burdens a bit.

“We probably could have gotten her ready for the school year with a little help, but it would have been a lot harder,” Adam Ahlquist said. “When you’re already paying for school clothes and books, the expenses just add up.”

Only one of Wendy Murakami’s three children is old enough to start school this year, but getting 5-year-old Chloe ready for kindergarten already costs enough that Wendy deemed it a blessing that the Summer Jubilee was there to provide free school supplies and a haircut, especially since Chloe’s last haircut was in the spring of last year.

“It’s been too long,” Wendy Murakami laughed. “I’ll try to have them trim all three kids’ hair, if there’s time. I heard about this event through my church, Turning Point, and I’ve never been to anything like it before. It’s like a free carnival, and it’s a fabulous way to give back to the community. It makes Chloe very excited to start school.”

Younger kids weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the free haircuts. Tiffany Diggs will be an incoming sophomore at Lummi High School in Bellingham this fall, and she admitted that it simply wouldn’t have been possible for her to obtain school supplies or a haircut before the first day of school otherwise. As for incoming Marysville-Pilchuck High School junior Anthony Burgess, he and his twin brother attended their second Summer Jubilee this year, and while Anthony’s last haircut was more recent than his brother’s, he still appreciated the opportunity to get his ears lowered before school starts.

“This is an awesome event,” said Koral Burgess, Anthony’s mother. “It’s very spiritual, so I can take my kids here, drop them off in a location and still feel comfortable.”

At the free school supplies line, where sets of age-appropriate school supplies were dispensed to preschoolers and grade schoolers through middle and high schoolers, Eric and Valerie Wise walked away with sets of supplies for their 14-year-old son Eian and their 8-year-old daughter Alexa.

“I think this is our second or third year,” Valerie Wise said. “It would have been a challenge, but we could have gotten school supplies on our own. Still, this really, really, really helps out a lot. It’s amazing to see how open and giving people can be. There are no strings attached, just kindness, and giving from God’s heart.”

While the Wises heard of the event through family, the Coholans just happened upon it by chance. Frank Coholan, his wife Selina and their son James, who’s entering the second grade, had come down from Chilliwack, British Columbia, for a camping trip.

“This is quite the event,” Frank Coholan said, as James toted his school supplies. “It’s got a nice theme of supporting students, and they’re doing God’s work, so that’s two good things.”

After she’d finished giving free haircuts, Everett hairstylist Ruby Rhodes picked up school supplies for her nieces and nephews.

“This is my first year here, too,” said Rhodes, who was recruited for the event from the Northwest Hair Academy. “I’m so happy to see all the kids getting excited to get ready for school. If they ask me to come back next year, I will.”

Marysville’s Lorelai Adams couldn’t resist showing off her school supplies for kindergarten to everyone around her. Lorelai is the oldest of three children, and her father, Jeff Adams, acknowledged that the family budget would have been “very tight” without the Summer Jubilee.

“Every little bit helps,” Jeff Adams said. “I didn’t realize how big this event is. With all the kids being served, the volume of it is just amazing. I love that these churches and the community are showing how much they care about our kids, by giving them a good start to their school year.”

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