Nine years ago, the Janesville Wesleyan Church decided to hold a back-to-school party for its neighbors.

Church members gave away school supplies, but the event was more about meeting the neighbors and connecting with the community, said the Rev. Jason Benjestorf.

The church and its local church partners are at it again Saturday, hosting a back-to-school bash from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.

“It’s a way to show people God’s love in a practical way,” Benjestorf said.

The event will include a free meal, bouncy houses, carnival games, and free haircuts and shoes for kids.

The shoes—about 700 pairs—are left over from the Day of Compassion that was part of Freedom Fest at New Life Assembly of God.

Kids also will have a chance to visit with a police officer and climb on a fire truck.

Prize giveaways are planned for kids and adults.

“Everything is free, and everyone is welcome,” Benjestorf said.

Saturday’s event won’t include a school supply giveaway. Other charities help with those, and the church didn’t want to duplicate services. Instead, organizers will collect classroom items such as boxes of tissue, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and other items that are used year-round in all grades.

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