Students and volunteers gather for last year s Back 2 School Basics event, which provides clothes and school supplies to local students in need. This year
Students and volunteers gather for last year s Back 2 School Basics event, which provides clothes and school supplies to local students in need. This year s event will be held on Friday, August 8, at the Tanger Outlets at Kimball Junction. (Photo by Nate Vineyard)
With a new school year right around the corner, back-to-school shopping is already in full swing, as parents and students ensure they're prepared when classes start later this month.

But many families lack the money to provide their children with new clothes or even essentials like pencils and notebooks or warm winter coats. That's where the Christian Center of Park City steps in with the Back 2 School Basics event, which helps give nearly 500 underprivileged Park City students clothing and supplies. This year's event is will take place Friday, August 8, at the Tanger Outlets, 6699 N. Landmark Drive.

Jenny Mauer, Special Events and Volunteer Coordinator for the Christian Center, said Back 2 School Basics, which is in its third year, gives students who wouldn't otherwise get any back-to-school items a chance at starting the school year off on the right foot.

"It helps them feel confident and prepared going into school," Mauer said. "It's already nerve-wracking enough starting the school year, without having to worry about fitting in."

The Christian Center works with the Park City School District and its schools to identify students of need for Back 2 School Basics. Each student is then given an $80 to $100 gift card to spend at the outlet mall, where many businesses provide special discounts for the event. Mauer said the money for the gift cards comes from several grants and personal donations.

Mauer said seeing the students pick out back-to-school clothes -- many for the first time in their lives -- is rewarding.

"It's just incredible to see the students come out with their families," Mauer said.


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"Sometimes they're just shocked. To see them wide-eyed, looking at their moms like, 'I can buy anything?' Some of them want to put on the sweatshirt they just bought, even though its 90 degrees outside."

Mauer said people in past years have questioned why the students are given the gift cards to spend at stores like Gap and Gymboree at the Tanger Outlets, when instead shopping at cheaper stores like Wal-Mart might make the money stretch further. But the goal of Back 2 School Basics is to ensure the students feel like they fit in with their classmates.

Additionally, the discounts the stores are giving the students make that less of an issue, Mauer said.

"If you're used to hand-me-downs, if that's all you've ever gotten, getting a new pair of jeans is a huge deal," Mauer said. "You fit in just like everyone else. Last year we saw students come to the event wearing the clothes they had gotten the previous year."

To accommodate so many students at the event, the Christian Center uses the help of volunteers, who each help a small group of students buy their clothes. Mauer said about 100 volunteers had signed up as of Friday but more are needed. Volunteers can sign up at ccofpc.org and must be either over 16 years old or accompanied by an adult.

"We've had a pretty good response, but we can use as many volunteers as we can get," said Mauer, noting volunteers who show up the day of the event without registering can still help. "The community in Park City is always so willing to help."