Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Back to School Rallies prepare students
for new school year, provide free supplies
By Tammy Lane
Fayette County Public Schools
Enthusiasm and anticipation trumped cloudy weather at the seventh annual Lexington Neighborhood Back to School Rallies, where about 8,000 students received free school supplies in Operation Backpack.
Cliff Feltham, the statewide media relations manager for Kentucky Utilities, compared the communitywide efforts to KU’s line technicians packing the right equipment for the job at hand.
“This is the time we make sure youngsters get a good start for the school year,” he told the crowd at Douglass Park. “We want the students to prepare themselves for the work they’ll do over the school year in the classroom.”
(Photos from FCPS)
Nineteen neighborhood sites handed out supplies for all grade levels Saturday – everything from pencils, crayons and highlighters to notebooks, glue sticks and three-ring binders. Kentucky Utilities contributed the drawstring backpacks, with the contents donated by the YMCA of Central Kentucky and other area businesses and organizations.
The Ready, Set, Go! rally sites – mostly parks and churches – provided children’s activities and games, resources for families, food and entertainment.
“We could not do this without all the community partners we have. We really thank you for all the support,” said Tom Blackman, interim CEO at the YMCA, which coordinated the rallies.
At Douglass Park, for instance, booths included the 16th District PTA, the Child Care Council and the health department, among others. There was a Zumba demonstration on stage and hula hooping on the lawn, along with a tic-tac-toe toss and an inflatable bounce house. Across town at Woodhill Park, teenagers danced under the shelter, parents stopped by the Lexington Public Library’s table, and youngsters perched for face-painting designs as hot dogs sizzled on the grill.
At noon, each site began distributing backpacks to students.
“This is about half of what they need,” said Henry Kenion, vice president of the Georgetown Street Area Neighborhood Association. “Many people in our neighborhood can’t afford (supplies) for school. As things get tighter, we have to do more as private citizens.”
Kenion, who occasionally drops by Leestown Middle School and Meadowthorpe and Ashland elementaries, said informal visits and ongoing support mean a lot to students and their teachers.
“I try to keep up,” he said. “I’m now in my fourth generation of children.”
The idea for the rallies grew from a single event hosted in 2001 by Shiloh Baptist Church. For several years, the grassroots organization One Community, One Voice coordinated a massive rally downtown at the Lexington Center. Several community groups then suggested taking the supplies and celebration out to the people. In 2006, OCOV partnered with LexLinc to develop the neighborhood-based rallies. The following year, LexLinc took the reins and guided the project through 2010. Since then, the YMCA of Central Kentucky has been in charge.
If your organization, business or church can help with next summer’s Back to School Rallies, please email Nicola Fleming with the YMCA or Alice Nelson with Fayette County Public Schools.