Backpack And School Supply Distribution Honors Slain Teen

2016 Zakee Bowser Backpack Giveaway - 1

Gina Bowser, center, created the Zakee Bowser Enrichment Foundation in memory of her son.

The first installment of about 400 backpacks filled with school supplies, destined for area schoolchildren, was distributed Aug. 20 at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens on Route 27.

The backpacks were collected and distributed by the Zakee Bowser Enrichment Foundation, an 18-year-old charity founded in memory of a New Brunswick teenager killed in 1997.

The event was the sixth annual “Get Your School On” backpack distribution. In addition to giving out school supplies to children, the day featured games, activities, face painting, food and music.

Zakee Bowser was 17 years old when he was shot, along with two other teens, by four members of an Hispanic street gang. The gang members were looking for someone they said stole a cap and radio belonging to one of their members. None of the youths shot were involved.

“I wanted to think of ways to keep my son’s memory alive,” said Gina Bowser, Zakee’s mother.

“Zakee would always bring friends home, mommy he’s hungry, mommy, he hasn’t seen his mom in two days, mom, can I give him some clothes?” she said. “And I would always say yes. So God was always pretty much preparing me.”

The foundation started with its “Give the Gift of Love” toy drive, which distributes toys to needy children.

“I contact the school nurse, because I know the nurse knows who comes in with tattered clothes,” Bowser said. “She knows which mother has seven kids and not many gifts to give. I always work with the school social worker and the school nurse.”

Then, about six years ago, Bowser said, she created the “Get Your School On” back-to-school supply drive.

“When the kids show up on the first day of school and they don’t have the nexessary tools to prticipate and learn, they’re already behind,” she said. “So we’re ensuring that every kid has a backpack full of school supplies; pencils, notebooks, some calculators, erasers, magic markers, highlighters.”

The supplies are donated by FBCLG congregation members and outside organizations, she said.

“We try to be a blessing to each and every kid, that they’re prepared to learn and they’ll be more successful during the school year,” she said.

Bowser’s twin sister, Dina, said the foundation’s goal is simple.

“We believe it takes a village to raise a child, so all of us together supporting our youth can really make a difference in our youth,” she said. “You want them to grow up, be educated, marry well and come back to the community and help somebody else.”

Joy Gardner, executive director of the FBCLG, said hosing the event is part of the church’s mission.

“We’ve been a part of the community for close to 80 years, and our ministry is not just cenetered within the walls, it’s outside the walls of First Baptist,” she said. “We consider ourselves a community church and we are called to serve, and this is just one part of what we do to serve the community.”

DeForest “Buster” Soaries, senior pastor at FBCLG, was on hand to bless the backpacks before they were distributed to the children.

“If you really want to honor the memory of Zakee Bowser, don’t just take a free bookbag, take an attitude of nonviolence back to your schools, take a spirit of respect for other people to your schools, take respect for your mothers and your fathers from this place,” he said. “Take love for your mother, and your dad and your grandma and your uncles and your aunties, the people that love you deserve you to love them back. If you really want to honor the memory of Zakee Bowser, understand that as awesome as you might be, as cute as you might become, as athletic as you might develop, know that God is in charge.”

“So when we give you these bookbags, we want you to be committed to developing your minds, developing your bodies and developing your spirits so that you can be all that God meant you to be,” he said.

2016 Zakee Bowser Foundation Backpack Giveaway


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