Despite the coronavirus pandemic and the threat of a hurricane headed our way, the Gifford Youth Achievement Center persevered with its recent Back to School Bash, distributing roughly 850 backpacks filled with school supplies that had been donated by area businesses, churches and civic groups.
According to Freddie Woolfork, GYAC director of public relations and facilities operations, the community responded with gusto when they reached out for contributions to their 22nd annual Back to School Supply Drive.
“There was more compassion toward helping these kids than ever before,” said Woolfork. “They just turned up the volume; people wanted to give more. One man brought some Walmart gift cards and said, ‘I just want to be a part of this great effort.’ That’s the general attitude of most people. They want to be a help, not a hindrance.”
To limit virus exposure, this year’s backpack distribution was a drive-through affair. Volunteers raced back and forth, asking drivers about the gender and ages of the children in the car so that the appropriate backpacks could be given to them.
The early bird got considerably more than the worm in this case. The first 100 high school or middle school students each received a $50 Home Depot gift card, and the first 100 elementary students received a $10 gift card from Walgreens. Other goodies given out until they ran out were donations of new sneakers, cloth facemasks, and water bottles encouraging participation in the 2020 Census.
“We’re always thankful and grateful for the donors who are so generous, especially now with COVID and so many people out of work,” said Angelia Perry, GYAC executive director. “I really believe we’ve gotten more donations than ever before, and we’re very grateful for all the supplies.”
During the summer months, GYAC enrolled students in eight weeks of academic camp – which was particularly important given this year’s schooling-at-home challenges – followed by three weeks of a day camp that is more concentrated on fun activities than studies.
Because of the coronavirus, the numbers of children were reduced by half to 100 for the academic camp and averaging about 50 for the day camp. GYAC is following all CDC guidelines, including temperature checks, facemasks, hand sanitizer stations and social distancing.
Woolfork said the parents, many of whom are employed in essential positions, love the camps because it provides their children with a safe, educational environment while they are at work.
“We’re all in this together,” said Woolfork. “This effort is a prime example of what we can do as a combined unified community.”