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story.lead_photo.caption Elizabeth Mensah, 8, is all smiles as she gets a balloon dog Sunday from magician/balloon artist David Scott during the Back-to-School Block Party at Landmark Church. Behind Elizabeth are her brothers Daniel, 5, and Samuel, 9. Photo by Gerry Tritz / News Tribune.

A steady stream of visitors came to Landmark Church on Sunday afternoon for the church's first Back-to-School Block Party.

The church offered backpacks filled with school supplies, lunches with hot dogs and hamburgers, games, balloon animals and music.

Pastor Scott Breedlove said the event is the first of what the church plans to be an annual event each August. The idea came from two parishioners who moved to Jefferson City from St. Louis, where their church had a similar event.

"I think it's going good. We have 54 backpacks, and we're hoping to have those all gone by 2 o'clock," Breedlove said shortly after the event began. "Then we had a bunch of people bring stuff: furniture, clothes. It's almost like a free yard sale."

Among those who attended were Mary Archibong, who brought her three children, Samuel Mensah, 9; Elizabeth Mensah, 8; and Daniel Mensah, 5. Archibong's sister, Sue, also came.

"I heard about this through the food pantry, and I can always use some school supplies," Archibong said. "There were clothes, shoes, books and miscellaneous stuff. It's pretty cool. I like it because it's one less thing to buy for school. It adds up."

Victoria Purl and her two children came to the event from Eldon.

"I think it's set up really nicely," she said. "They did a good job. It's organized, and they're very generous."

The church raised money from its congregation to fund the backpacks, and it hopes to grow the event in the future, Breedlove said. Several organizations also made donations that helped fund the event, he said.

The Pentecostal-style church formed in Jefferson City about 14 years ago and has about 100 members.

The public was welcome to attend the event, and there were no income or residency requirements. The church did ask that people bring their children with them.

Church members asked those in attendance if they could help them in any other way in the future, and invited them to return to attend a church service.

"We call it Matthew 25 ministry," Breedlove said. "There's a verse in Scripture, Matthew 25, where Jesus talked about you clothe people, you fed people, you visited the sick, those in prison, and the same way you've done it to one of them, you've done it to me. So our church is big on Matthew 25 ministry."

As a part of that, the church is purchasing a house on Washington Street that it will use as a transition house for women coming out of prison or who have other problems. It will have a house manager and a 9- to 12-month program focusing on issues such as parenting, anger management and drug abuse.

Breedlove said it will help them to cope in society, and to find jobs.

It's called Stacy's House, after a woman in the church who died of cancer. The church is buying the home in August and hopes to start opening it to women in September.

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