Back-to-school event looking for partners

BY KARIN DAVIS-THOMPSON, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — It started with a simple idea with a straightforward mission. Last year, John McGuire and his friend Harvtra Williams wanted to do something to help kids in the neighborhood get ready for school.

“We were talking about how much we could have used the help when we were kids,” McGuire said. “So Harvtra came to me and asked if I wanted to help put something together.”

With little time, the pair set out to fill several hundred backpacks with school supplies. Using mostly their own money, they went to work, getting 300 backpacks and all of the supplies to fill them. About 200 uniforms were also available for those who needed them. They thought they could make a day of it, providing bouncy houses, food, games and haircuts on the day the bags would be distributed.

They thought 300 bags would be a great number and figured it would take about two hours to distribute them and the kids could play while families waited in line.

“We were all out in 15 minutes,” McGuire said. “We just made a few Facebook posts and thought there would be a few people, but the place was jammed packed.”

Realizing the need was greater than they ever imagined, this year the goal is 500 backpacks and as many uniforms as possible.  Families do not have to bring any documentation to show need, but their child does need to be present to receive the supplies and uniforms.

This year’s event is set for Saturday, Aug. 3 on the corner of 18th Avenue and 28th Street South from 2-6 p.m. The Back-to-School Bash will once again include food, uniforms, haircuts, games and play for the students.

“We plan to have a few contests and try to make it fun for the kids,” said McGuire, owner of Pedi Plug Nail and Spa.

There will be plenty of parking for the event, and they hope that members of the community will help them meet their 500 supply-filled backpack goal. Inside the bags, the team wants to include the basics – pens, pencils, notebook paper, folders, rulers, erasers, glue sticks, crayons for the younger kids and calculators for the older students.

“Whatever people can do would be appreciated,” he said. “We just want to make it nice for the community.”

The duo said they understand how tough times are and how important it is for everyone who can to lend a hand.

“The economy is really tough right now,” McGuire stated. “You have a lot of single parents, especially in urban areas, with a lot going on.  And I know how tough it is; I am a single father myself. Nothing is getting cheaper, and everything is going up.”

Anyone interested in donating can contact McGuire at 727-308-9899. The team has begun assembling the bags but needs more supplies to make sure they can give the students as much as possible.

“I tell people anything they can spare,” he said. “It’s all for good and will be a big help.”

To reach Karin Davis-Thompson, email kdavis-thompson@theweeklychallenger.com

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