By Emmanuel Bazile
(AUG. 11) -Hundreds of elementary, middle and high school students and their parents streamed into the Boys and Girls Club recently under a blazing sun to pick up school supplies, get an eye exam, a checkup or even a haircut and styling for the new school year.
The Spirit of Giving Network, an umbrella group of about 50 local nonprofits, held the annual Back-to-School Bash.
Karen Krumholtz, executive director of the Spirit of Giving, said each parent was given an invitation from a local social services agency or nonprofit that allowed access to the giveaway event.
The children got to choose their own backpacks and supplies, which Krumholtz said, fosters confidence.
“It’s all about self-esteem,” she said. “These children should have the same opportunities as everyone else.”
Maria Lisa saw the event as a great stress relief. It allowed her to save on supplies for her two sons and use the monies elsewhere.
“It’s a big help,” said Lisa, who waited with her mother outside the door while her sons “shopped” inside the gymnasium. “We saw everything that was in the bag and it’s exactly what we needed. This was a huge saving.”
Families spent an average of $689 on back-to-school supplies, according to the National Retail Federation.
A number of community resource agencies also had tables with information about services they offer residents.
At the neighboring Village Academy, where close to 100 percent of students receive free or reduced lunches, it’s not uncommon for students to show up on the first day of school without the necessary supplies, said Principal Guarn Sims.
“Often we do get students coming in who don’t have anything,” he said. “We will take them to the supply closet and give it to them quietly. … It’s nice to see the community stepping in to help, especially in these economic times.”
Several other community organizations held back to school events to help needy children.
While hundreds were at the Boys and Girls Club, about 200 attended a Back to School, Brown Bag Special Clothing Drive at St. Paul’s Episcopal on South Swinton. For $5, parents got a brown paper bag stuffed with new or gently-used children’s clothes. In its third year of the back to school special, All People’s Day, Inc., a nonprofit organization and diversity holiday, wanted to make an impact in the community by offering used clothing at reasonable rates for all ages.
“We had clothes for infants up to college students,” said Susan Berkowitz-Schwartz, who along with her husband Elliott and groups of volunteers, organized the clothing drive. “They got a lot of stuff and the clothes were great. We were folding clothes all summer long.”
Parents also attended giveaway at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Boynton Beach.
“It was a phenomenal event I think everybody felt good and proud to be there,” said Ike Powell, a volunteer who represented Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Members of the organization set up and provided security on Friday night and Saturday, Powell said.
Thousands also received school supplies at an event at the Wayne Barton Study Center in Boca Raton.
“Having three or four children who need school supplies can be a very, very stressful experience, and it can be a burden on the families,” said Kevin Dorival, a mentor with KOP, formerly the Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network, one of the organizations which received supplies. “They may have to decide whether to pay for their utility bill or buy school supplies.”