Back-2-School Jam is together time

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 26, 2011

By Cynthia Hooper
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — The third annual Thelma Smith Back-2-School Jam was held Saturday afternoon at Kelsey Scott Park. People from as far away as South Carolina came to enjoy the event that focused on education and community togetherness. Visitors enjoyed free hot dogs and drinks, games and the musical stylings of DJ Panic, Power 98 and local rap group Ross City.
The Thelma Smith Foundation-South Branch hosted the event, which focused on giving back to kids and the community as well as making education its first priority. All the children received a back-to-school pack filled with school supplies and other necessities. There was face painting, a cake walk, a relay race and other games at no cost to the participants. Local businesses, such as Domino’s, Papa John’s and T-Mobile donated prizes for the games and raffles.
Alexis “Lex” Smith, Thelma Smith’s son, formed the Thelma Smith Foundation following the death of his mother in 2004 and incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 2008. Thelma Smith was instrumental is helping children in Harlem come together as a community through back-to-school events and basketball tournaments.
Realizing the program was so successful in New York, Alexis Smith decided to expand. Since many of the children who participated in New York were attended Livingstone College, he decided that Salisbury would be a good place to expand to. Smith got together with Melissa Summers, Lamar Brothers and Kay Ferrens to create the South Branch.
According to the Thelma Smith Foundation website, the organization provides youth leadership, education and community service programs in a safe and supportive environment. The broad scope of services provides youth leadership, education, anti-violence programs, recreation, sports programs and creative arts for children in grades 1-12.
Alexis Smith attended Saturday’s event in Salisbury with his wife, Francine, their granddaughter, Kalya, and Francine’s mother, Kay Ferrens.
Melissa Summers, media marketing executive for the Thelma Smith Foundation-South Branch, coordinated the event. She was pleased with the large turnout despite the heat, saying the event had already enticed 250 people to stop by the park by 1 p.m. Summers said the event was publicized on social media sites Twitter and Facebook and it really brought a lot of people out.
Fundraiser coordinator for the Foundation, Melissa Gladden, enjoys having the event at Kelsey Scott Park and has participated for the last three years. Gladden was pleased that even in the rough economy, sponsors were able to donate items to make back to school easier on peoples’ wallets.
“People still do care out here. We know you’re hurting, we know you’re struggling, and we are here and we will help you,” Gladden said.
Happy to have a weekend off from his construction job, Edward “Ed-Lover” Connor, was in charge of grilling the hot dogs for the third year in a row. The self-proclaimed ‘Hot Dog Master” was not sure how many dogs he had cooked Saturday afternoon, but he knew there sure were a lot of them.
In addition to food and games, entertainment was rap group, Ross City, from Salisbury. The four siblings in the group attended North Rowan High School and have been performing together as a foursome for the last 18 months. Managed by their mother, the groups hopes to promote its non-violent, cuss-free rap as an alternative to music filled with violence and hate. Touching on real-life issues in their music, people in the crowd shook their heads and cheered for the group between songs. Dwight “Cannon” Ross, 22, produces their CDs and hopes one day to have his own recording label. Other members of the group are 20-year-old Derrell “Lil Snap” Ross, 23-year-old Desiree “First Lady” Ross and 26-year-old Damon “Young Flame” Ross.
To learn more about the Thelma Smith Foundation visit