ELKTON — Although the school year is on the horizon, kids and their parents celebrated summer one last time with hamburgers, popcorn, kickball, and music at the Hollingsworth Manor Back to School Jam on Friday night.
In its second year held at Family Education Center, the event served as another block party to rally the community together and to see what’s happening in Hollingsworth Manor neighborhood.
Sheilagh Weinert, a member of the Hollingsworth Landing Association, said that everyone here had something in common: they had to get their kids ready for the first day of school. In addition to fun features like face painting and dancing to the DJ, the event also included free haircuts and giving away 300 backpacks packed with supplies.
“It’s about getting people out and getting kids back-to-school ready with haircuts and backpacks, and of course we’ve got some fun things too,” she said.
The Back to School Jam also marks one year since Maryland Rural Development Cooperation, the Cecil County’s Local Management Board and the Paris Foundation launched the “Raise the Manor” initiative, where it would work with residents to build their confidence to improve its community.
One year later, residents like Weinert and Sarah Guns have planned yard sales, front porch decorating contests, movie nights and graduation parties to inspire camaraderie. The Hollingsworth Landing Association also hosts monthly meetings with its state, county and local partners.
“It’s about a change of attitude,” Weinert said. “We’re making it better and brighter.”
Jacob Perkins got one of the backpacks, and was delighted to see a pair of safety scissors inside them. He happily started snipping at the grass as soon as he got his hands on them.
His mom, Sarah Guns, said that she loved to see her neighbors gathered together, noting that in the last year, the residents started to perk up.
“It’s a slow process, and I do think people are more willing to try. Things like this improve the community feel,” she said.
A handful of vendors set up shop in front of the Family Education Center, while Singerly Fire Company parked a fire apparatus and the Elkton Police Department set out a squad car. Both agencies invited kids to get more hands on experience with it, with SFC volunteers explaining the how the hose system works and EPD helping kids get the police car’s sirens on.
Beyond that, EPD officers and SFC volunteers organized a game of kickball with some neighborhood kids. Sparky the Fire Dog later joined in.
Robin Buchanan was new to the area, but figured her son Austin needed a little fun after their move here from Florida.
“He needed something to do. Elkton could do more events like this. Where we were there were tons of free events for the kids,” she said.
Brenda Duncan was holding onto two backpacks for her daughters — one teal and one navy — while one was getting a haircut.
“The backpacks are lovely. I was shocked that they would give us all this, but as a single mom, every little bit helps,” she said.
Duncan had no idea the event was going on until her neighbors told her about the backpack giveaway. She was surprised to see the block party in full swing.
“It’s awesome, just seeing everyone come together,” she said. “I hear a lot of bad things about the area, but like everything, it’s all in what you make of it.”
For MRDC Executive Director Chris Benzing, the Back to School Jam symbolized the continued support of several organizers and the community, and touted the strides the effort has made in the past few years.
“We do this for the community. Together with the Hollingsworth Landing Association, we were able to get 300 backpacks for a giveaway. We were able to bring in police officers to play kickball,” he said. “Three years ago, you had to work to name something good in Hollingsworth Manor. Now there’s events happening every month.”
“It’s amazing how it can come together when we work together,” he added.