THE ANNUAL BACK TO SCHOOL BLITZ was transformed into a drive-thru event this year due to COVID-19. Participation was off slightly, but organizers say they were pleased under the circumstances. The remaining bags of supplies will be distributed among the local schools to benefit children who were unable to come Saturday.
Approximately 700 students will be better equipped to get back to classwork thanks to many local donors who contributed to a huge community school supply giveaway. Normally held inside the gymnasium at Cairo High School, Saturday’s Back to School Blitz was a drive-thru event with bags of paper and pencils, rulers and erasers, given to each child with a parent as they cruised in front of the basketball arena in an orderly fashion Saturday, 9 a.m. until 11 a.m.
“Considering the pandemic, we had a great attendance,” says Nola Daughtry, executive director of Grady County Family Connection, which co-hosted the event along with Grady County Schools. “All the parents and children were courteous and appreciative of the supplies. Grady County citizens are fortunate. There are many businesses and organizations we know we can count on for support in our community. We thank them all, because none of this is possible without their support.”
The volunteers who helped distribute the bags included representatives of various local organizations. According to Mrs. Daughtry, they were: Dr. Katina Cooper, Grady County Family Connection board of directors and Grady County Schools; Patsy Pallone, Roddenbery Memorial Library; Kim Wyche, WellCare; Randy Bearden, custodian of Cairo High School; Erica Hunter, Organizing For Grady County; Chris Lokey, C.H.S. principal; Dr. Kermit Gillard, Grady County Schools superintendent; Michael Best, Washington Middle School principal; Laura Kelly, recruiter/assistant high school coordinator for Southern Regional Technical College; City of Cairo Police Department; Grady County Schools Police Department; and Grady County Fire Department.
Mrs. Daughtry says, “All of the volunteers’ temperatures were taken before participation, and they were required to wear masks the entire time. It’s our way to help protect our community.”
The C.H.S. basketball team assisted with assembling a total of 800 school bags, according to Daughtry. Those volunteers were: Tanaijah Moore, Chassitti Butler, Kendra Speed, Takyah Bradshaw, Alasia Franklin, Ta’Liyah Jackson, Chambria Vicks, Ambria Vicks, Anija Reid, coach Marier Thornton and coach Marquelle Hopkins.
The 100-150 remaining bags not given away Saturday were divided amongst the local schools, Daughtry says, to be distributed later to students who may need supplies.
Every bag contained pencils, pens, pencil sharpener, erasers, wide rule paper, pencil pouches, rulers, Grady County Schools enrollment information, and contact information on local resources. Donations of markers, crayons, color pencils and water bottles were distributed as long as supplies lasted, according to Daughtry.
Those businesses that supported the event included Gold Sponsors CNS, Koyo JTECH, Wal-Mart and WellCare; Silver Sponsors Cairo Kiwanis Club, The Cairo Messenger, Drew Oil Company, Grady General Hospital, and Rep. Darlene Taylor; Bronze Sponsors Dental Associates of SWGA (Dr. Jennifer Kendrick and Dr. Thomas K. Leggett), First National Bank, Heritage Foundation, Grady County Sheriff Harry Young, United National Bank, and Women of Purpose Global Ministries; and In-Kind Donors PeachCare Health Plan, CareSource, First Option, Option Care Pregnancy Center, Grady General Hospital, Pizza Hut and Roddenbery Memorial Library.
Daughtry says, “We missed having the regular event with door prizes, student entertainment, and the one-on-one interaction with the school students and their parent. Grady County Schools and Family Connection’s decision to have the event was not hastily made and we decided there is a need for our students and parents, regardless if they have classes online or attending at the schools.”