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Back-To-School Supply Drive gets students, teachers ready for new year

By Lee Wardlaw lee@claytodayonline.com
Posted 7/13/23

ORANGE PARK – In collaboration with the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and more than 10 local businesses, the Orange Park Mall is gearing up for its second annual Back-To-School Supply …

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Back-To-School Supply Drive gets students, teachers ready for new year


Posted

ORANGE PARK – In collaboration with the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and more than 10 local businesses, the Orange Park Mall is gearing up for its second annual Back-To-School Supply Drive.

The man behind the initiative, Curtis Brown, is the owner of Laugh World Children’s Boutique, a store in the mall specializing in fashionable children’s clothing. He has an outpouring passion for local students and wants to ensure that every child has the necessary tools to succeed.

The primary objective of the drive is to ensure children in the county will have a new backpack filled with essential school supplies. The drive is currently accepting donations until July 28.

Brown expressed enthusiasm for impacting youth and getting the community more involved.

“This is an idea, something I wanted to set out to do, and other people said, ‘Hey, I want to be part of this.’ I think this is a great opportunity to see who cares about the community,” he said.

The goal is to fill 250 backpacks with supplies. The list of items to donate includes pencils, pens, crayons, markers, pencil cases, water bottles, glue sticks, hand sanitizer, wipes, facial tissue, notebook, labels, tape, erasers, construction paper, rulers, binders, scissors, highlighters, pencil sharpeners, hole punchers and post-it notes.

Another primary motivation for the drive is to alleviate the burden on teachers who often need to help fulfill the need of many students themselves, which takes away valuable learning time in the classroom. Brown emphasized the importance of supporting the county’s educators.

“Just to take the burden off of (the teachers),” Brown said.

Drop-off bins are located throughout the county, including Achieve Fitness (2349 Village Square Pkwy. on Fleming Island), the Clay Chamber (2042 Park Ave. in Orange Park), the Courtyard by Marriott Orange Park (610 Wells Road in Orange Park) Compass Health, 950 Blanding Blvd. in Orange Park), Green Cove Springs City Hall (321 Walnut St.) Haven Hospice (745 Blanding Blvd. in Orange Park), Keystone Heights City Hall (555 South Lawrence Blvd.), SouthState Bank (1440 Kingsley Ave. in Orange Park) and All Star Elite, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Laugh World Kids Boutique at the Orange Park Mall.

“It’s easy for anyone to donate by just visiting just one of the participating drop-off locations,” said Jon Cantrell, President of the Chamber of Commerce.

The culmination of the Back-To-School Supply Drive will be the KidX Back to School Jamboree, which will be held at the Orange Park Mall near JCPenney on Saturday, Aug. 5. Backpacks will be filled with supplies and distributed to children from 11:30 a.m to 3 p.m. in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida.

The event promises to be a day filled with fun for families, which will feature Dillard’s Back-to-School Fashion Show, face painting and a “silly school day picture.”

Brown’s roots in urban Chicago fuel the irons for his entrepreneurial fires in the children’s clothing and novel industries, and moving forward, he would like to see even more community involvement.

He drew his inspiration from his inner-city upbringing, where he witnessed firsthand deficiencies of supplies as simple as pencils and paper. Now, he’s motivated by his own experience and feels compelled to give back to those in rural and underserved communities.

“Some parents really can’t afford to supply their children with backpacks. If your child needs a backpack, we’re doing it for that. We have your back,” Brown said.

Cantrell said he’s excited to partner with Brown, the mall and businesses. This is the first year the Chamber has participated.

“Our members know the value of education and enjoy giving back to the community. Our goal is to collect enough supplies to fill those backpacks, and we expect this to exceed with the outpouring so far. The willingness of (county business owners) to participate in events like these fosters a sense of small-town pride in the community,” Cantrell said.

The coordinated effort is a testament to the power of the Clay community.

“Anytime that businesses partner to benefit the community, it’s special, and this is a great example of that,” he said.