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Supply giveaway helps students get ready for school

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — No matter what other students may say, Hayley Rojas is ready to go back to school.
The rising Knox Middle School sixth-grader said she’s ready to be back in math class.
“It’s my favorite subject,” said Rojas.
She and her mother, Trinidad, went to Kelsey Scott Park on Saturday for some food and drinks, and, what’s more useful, some school supplies so Hayley can do well in that class.
The Thelma Smith Foundation’s annual Back to School Jam ran from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday in the park.
The charitable foundation holds giveaways of donated school supplies, along with music and family fun, in several U.S. cities each year.
Melissa Summers, marketing and media executive for the foundation, said Salisbury is the site of one of this year’s events because of the founder’s ties to the city.
Mr. Alexis “Lex” Smith, founder of the charity, named it for his mother, Thelma Smith.
Although he passed away earlier this year, Summers said the foundation will continue to honor his commitment to children and families.
And, she said, there is a definite need for assistance here.
Even though the start of school is still weeks away, she said some 300 families had come in the first two hours of the event.
“We’re seeing that a lot of them are elementary school kids,” Summers said.
Along a walkway in the park, tables manned by volunteers were loaded with grocery bags of age-appropriate supplies – glue sticks and similar materials for elementary-school children, rulers and pens for older students.
And each child and each parent received bags with samples of soap and toothpaste, which organizers say is not only to promote good hygiene, but to help families save money.
“Those are basic necessities,” said Kathy Mortimer, one of the organizers of the event.
Summers and Mortimer said many national retailers with Salisbury locations stepped up to donate supplies or funds.
Two companies with local ties, Food Lion and Cheerwine, donated materials, along with food and drink.
Other stores sent staff as volunteers to help distribute supplies, pass out bottled water and take part in the activities.
Raffle tickets were also sold, giving attendees a chance to win a free haircut or styling appointment, a pair of shoes or other prizes.
Jennifer Henderson, local stylist who donated her services to the raffle, gave a demonstration under a picnic shelter – styling her cousin’s hair.
Henderson said she’s a recent graduate of Empire Beauty School, and wanted to show her gratitude and give back to the community.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I’m glad I came.”
Along with the enjoyment of an afternoon cookout were the smiles and grateful thank-yous of those who got the donated school supplies.
“This helps out a lot,” Trinidad Rojas said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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