School Tools Giveaway draws a crowd
By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — Dakhari Carter, 6, patiently waited in line at Saturday’s School Tools Giveaway, which was organized by Communities in Schools.
She stood with mom, Sharita, and brother, Darris. Dakhari was about to receive a bookbag full of pens, pencils, paper and other items that she would use at Hanford Dole Elementary School as she enters the first grade.
“I need these things because I can learn stuff, and I like writing. I don’t have any of these things til I get inside,” Dakhari said.
School age children from Rowan County who were accompanied by a parent were given a ticket as they waited in a line that wrapped around the parking lot of First Baptist Church’s complex that was formerly the Salisbury YMCA.
Volunteer Beth Foreman questioned those who joined the line, some of whom had been in place since 7:30 a.m. waiting for the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. giveaway.
Foreman asked the children what school they attended and if the person with them was a parent. Once those questions were answered, they waited to enter the building and pick up the bookbags. Volunteers inside had the students sign in and recorded the school attended, took tickets and assisted with the giveaway.
Catrina Jordan brought her daughter, Karizma, to get supplies because she had just started a new job and didn’t have money to buy them herself. Karizma attends Overton Elementary.
Jordan found out about the CIS effort through the First Baptist Church website. This was her first year at the school tools giveaway.
“It is a good thing that they have things like this to help people who can’t do it themselves,” she said.
At least 35 volunteers worked Friday night setting up the giveaway, and stuffing the bookbags based on age group.
Older students got about 17 items meant for middle school and high school use, while younger students got children’s scissors, rulers, eraser tops, crayons, colored pencils and more.
Executive Director of Community in Schools is Vicky Slusser. On Saturday, she was near the entrance and directed families to the next available place to sign in.
Slusser pointed out that 20 volunteers were helping at that moment, including her husband, Mark. Supplies given in the book bags were donated by various businesses.
“The effort has been huge this year. We actually had fewer donors giving, but donations per donor were up,” Slusser said. “This is the icing on the cake for me. I get to meet the community. We put the kids served here on the same playing field as their peers when they go to school. Just the smell of new crayons gets me excited. There is nothing better than the look on a kid’s face when they get their own crayons.”
Teacher Angie Fleming at North Rowan Middle School brought 10 volunteers from Class Act, a teen group at Christiana Lutheran Church.
“I love how everyone came together to help the kids and the families in the community at a time when there is so much need,” she said.
Volunteers are the backbone of the Communities in Schools effort.
“We need volunteers. They don’t have to bring any special skill. Volunteers can expect to give about 30-60 minutes a week after training and a background check,” said Volunteer Coordinator Doris Yost, herself a former teacher.
CIS has a need for both mentors and tutors. Mentors usually meet with a child during breakfast or lunch, and talk with them. Tutors need basic math or reading schools.
They can pick a school out of a list that includes Overton, Hanford-Dole, Koontz and North elementaries, Knox and North middle schools, and North Rowan and South Rowan highs.
“The students are referred by teachers and guidance counselors, and many just need a positive male influence in their lives. We have an opportunity to help the kids now, or we’ll pay for them later,” Yost said.
Statistics show that 70 percent of current prison inmates are high school dropouts. Communities In Schools is the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization.
“A lot of the parents didn’t like school, so CIS works to build a good relationship. We build relationships. Programs don’t change people, relationships do,” Yost added.
First Baptist Church provided the facility for the school tools giveaway, and donated 300 of the backpacks according to Rod Kerr, Minister of Education.
“We have about 50 people at First Baptist who work in the school system, and we see the need. It is our second year involved with CIS. I had a family member who quit school, so I just had to be part of this,” Kerr said.
Find out more about the ongoing efforts of Communities In Schools at www.rowan.communitiesinschools.org