More Than 500 Bags Of School Supplies Given At Inagural Blast Off Bartow Back to School Bash
by James Coulter
More than 500 local children won’t be going back to school empty-handed thanks to the book bags of school supplies given to them during the inaugural Blast Off Bartow Back to School Bash on Saturday.
Countless children and their families gathered at the Carver Community Center last Saturday to wait in line for a chance to receive a book bag filled with donated school items. They also received a brown paper bag with a hot lunch consisting of hot dogs, chips, and drinks.
After receiving their free school supplies, attendees could engage in various other activities, including playing around in bounce houses, listening to live musical entertainment, playing basketball and Zumba exercises, and listening to storytellers.
More than a dozen local organizations set up booths and vendors within the gymnasium, where attendees could peruse and check out their goods and services. Participants included the Bartow Public Library and the Grant Career & Technical Education (GCTE) Center.
The event was the first collaboration between three major local organizations—Snapping Turtles, All For One, and Endless Abilities—as well as a few small local churches. As most local organizations often host a back to school event each year, these three decided to combine their efforts and provide one large community event, explained Shandrin Tollie, President of All For One.
The rainy forecast that day may have hampered their plans for grander outdoor activities, but overall, the very first event that Saturday went off without a hitch, drawing in hundreds of local residents from across the community, Tollie said.
“The rain always is an issue; but beyond that, the turnout is great,” he said. “Parents are out with the kids having fun…I am satisfied [with] this being the first one, and the future looks bright…The more we do this, the more people will get involved, and we are going to try to make it really big.”
Anthony Nettles, Polk County President of Snapping Turtles, has been hosting his own back-to-school event with his organization. Being able to team up with two other local organizations not only tripled their community outreach, but also furthered their own mission statement, he said.
“It has more than exceeded our expectations,” he said. “It is for our goal and our mission to give back to the community, and we are doing just that.”
Resheka Harris, CEO of Endless Abilities, works through her organization to further their goal of fostering community inclusion for individuals with disabilities, aiding them, their families, and their caregivers on their path for independent living.
As with the other participating organizations that day, she and her organization wanted to combine their efforts to help provide local children with school supplies and offer them a fun summer diversion before the upcoming start of the school year.
The end of July saw more than 400 people pre-register for the event, with more than 500 expected to have attended that day, Harris said.
“I am enjoying it so much so that I am not even tired,” she said. “I just feel like I am enjoying myself with everyone else. I am happy to be out here today.”