Military families get back-to-school supplies from YMCA

By Bruce Hope bruce@opcfla.com
Posted 8/5/20

FLEMING ISLAND – Military families in Clay County with school-aged children will have one less thing to worry about as their young ones return to organized learning later this month.

Between …

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Military families get back-to-school supplies from YMCA

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – Military families in Clay County with school-aged children will have one less thing to worry about as their young ones return to organized learning later this month.

Between Aug. 1-7, the YMCA will be hosting military appreciation back-to-school bashes, where they give away free t-shirts and backpacks filled with school supplies. All active duty, National Guard and reserve service people are eligible to take part.

“This has been going on since 2017,” said Lindsay Murphey, Military Outreach Director with the YMCA. “This is our fourth event. Unfortunately, due to COVID [19], we did have to turn it into a drive-through experience. For the past four years, it has been taking place at an actual YMCA facility, and it’s been a huge back-to-school bash event, but we are grateful that we are able to still serve our military families in the First Coast area. We are able to say thank you and show our appreciation.”

Murphey and other YMCA staff and volunteers were at the Barco-Newton YMCA Sunday, between 1-4 p.m. Military families drove up to the front door of the building, where each child selected a backpack of their choice and was given a t-shirt. All children from kindergarten to high school were eligible for the pickup.

“Every child that comes through – school-aged child – is going to receive a backpack full of school supplies as well as a tee-shirt so that whether they’re going back to school virtually or in the classroom, they’re still able to have a token of appreciation from us to get them ready for the school year,” said Murphey.

Murphey estimates that there were about 500 backpacks and shirts available at the giveaway and that the remaining supply would be available to National Guard families at Camp Blanding and in St. Augustine during the rest of the week.

Other members of staff and volunteers found the event fulfilling. Kimberly Shadrock is a YMCA employee involved in the Operation Hero Mentor program, which is an after-school program for children of military families.

“I do it [work the back-to-school bash event] because I work with the military families here, and I’m also a military spouse, and so I just like giving back and helping them,” she said. “I know that these little things like this, backpacks, and school supplies help a lot of families financially with all those back to school things.”

Even with COVID-19 significantly affecting the normal execution of the event, the turnout was good. Families were encouraged to register online first to control the flow, which was set at a maximum of 25 cars an hour.

“We’ve had great turnout,” said Murphey. “I think that they know that because we are all wearing masks – all of the staff are all wearing masks when the families come to pick up, and they’re staying in their vehicles. So, I think they appreciate that we’re still able to do something.

“Families seem happy. The kids that are getting to pick out their backpacks are so excited. We’re seeing lots of smiles as they drive away. Also, as the cars are leaving, we’re thanking the servicemembers for their service.”

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