Tashina Sorensen-Adams made a mental note to herself after she attended a previous school supplies giveaway shoehorned into First Call for Help’s headquarters at 721 West 2nd Ave.

“I told myself I was never going back,” Sorensen-Adams said.

On Wednesday morning, First Call for Help conducted the distribution in a vacant spacious storefront in the Hutchinson Mall, 1500 East 11th Ave. Patrons and organizers gave the change high marks.

First Call for Help executive director Marilyn Graham said the total number of children registered for a free backpack filled with class level-appropriate supplies was 2,052, but the organization purchased an extra 200 packs. A line of parents and children stretched down the mall’s midway before the giveaway to families based on income guidelines began at 10 a.m.

“This location is a lot better,” said one father, David Anderson, after he and his two children emerged from the mall. He liked the additional activities, too.

Representatives of Westar Energy Inc., the Reno County Health Department, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Hutchinson offered information on their services. Professional photographer Crystal Washington took children’s photos for a discount price. Children picked up free dental kits, and younger ones were invited to choose a free paperback book.

Sorensen-Adams liked that each child was able to choose a backpack. She considered the book a bonus. 

Sarah Reade, a representative of Usborne Books & More Educational Services, said donations and a grant made the books possible. Among the first titles to go were a book about dinosaurs and the Ella Diaries books, she said.

For each family, a volunteer guided them through the distribution site.

Parker Martinez will turn six years old this month and enter first grade at Morgan Elementary School. He chose “Underpants for Ants” at the book table and then advanced to the array of backpacks.

Hutchinson firefighter Jake Gehring was Parker’s guide, but he stood back as the boy chose one backpack higher up in the racks.

“Yeah, man, that’s a good one,” Gehring said approvingly, as he lifted down the gray camouflage bag with a water bottle. “I like camo stuff,” Parker said, explaining his decision.

Anderson’s fourth-grade son Chevon Anderson opted for a backpack with Batman, and second-grade daughter Aleada Anderson chose a pink-and-purple bag decorated with hearts.

“It makes it more personal to them,” David Anderson said when the child picks the bag.

Hutchinson Community College’s Cosmetology, 200 East 3rd Ave., hosted free haircuts for children, and hairdressers and barbers in the area volunteered their skills and time.

Tony Rivera, of The Edge Salon and Day Spa, 412 East 30th Ave., gave Cipriano Anguiano his first professional haircut. 

It took a minute to convince him to get in the chair, said Cipriano’s aunt, Jennifer Cataneda.

“You’re doing great, buddy, we’re almost there,” Rivera said as he finished the fade haircut for the boy who will enter kindergarten. Cipriano was mostly quiet, but when Rivera had the electric clippers in his hand, the boy said, "I don't like it by my ear."

 Afterward, Cipriano patted the top of his head with his palm and said, "I like it." 

Heather Butler, an HCC Cosmetology student, gave a haircut to seventh-grader Jayden Coss. She would get her instructor's input before dismissing him from the chair, but first, she checked with Jayden.

“Is that the right length? I want to make sure it looks right to you,” she said. It did.

Employees at Rivera’s salon also were pitching in. They all want to give back to the community, he said.

First Call for Help's Graham said they ended the day with about 80 backpacks remaining, but about 70 children pre-registered for a bag were unable to attend the distribution Wednesday and will collect them later. Some families registered their children Wednesday, and First Call for Help will need almost 100 more backpacks to meet that new demand, she said.

The Hutchinson Fire Department also is collecting school supplies, Graham said, and that should fill in gaps not covered by the backpack program.  

“There should not be a child in Reno County who starts school without supplies,” she said.