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4,000 students, parents turn out for growing Back-to-School event

Cars were wrapped around Jones Elementary School Saturday morning as close to 4,000 students and parents showed up for the annual Back-to-School Fair.

Close to 3,000 backpacks — donated by Wilson residents, businesses and organizations — were already onsite and packed with school supplies. The annual event, which gets larger every year, led some families to the school hours before the fair started at 9 a.m. Many children were still picking out backpacks near the noon hour.

"It has been an amazing success,” said Amber Lynch, public relations director for Wilson County Schools. "As always, our community comes together to support our students.”

Maribel Renteria showed up at 8 a.m. with her two girls, a nephew and her cousin’s daughter, and they stayed several hours.

"We had a blast,” Renteria said. "We got here at 8 a.m. and there was a long line. It was really packed. I heard there were people here at 3 a.m.”

The fair offered children’s activities, food and entertainment, including martial arts demonstrations. Behind the school, there were 68 booths set up that offered school information, a host of community resources and food. Not only was the playground available but bounce houses were also set up. Children got the chance to climb inside a fire truck and see EMS, school and police vehicles.

"They had a good time,” Renteria said. "They got their face painted, they got on the fire truck and the school bus and went to the dunking booth. I think it’s a great program. I’m going to save $30 to $40 because a bookbag isn’t going to be less than $10. Just a savings of $10 to $15 helps.”

She took time to fill out a thank you card at the event and said the backpacks have an even greater impact on low-income families who have five or six children.

Barbara Langston, a foster parent who recently moved to Wilson from Baltimore, was really impressed with the size of the fair and widespread support from the community. Langston has three children who were able to select their own color and style backpack. Each backpack was stocked with all the supplies needed for the school year.

"I think it’s really nice that they’re helping people,” Langston said. "I really didn’t have the money to get it for them.”

The fair drew community-wide support through fundraising efforts, corporate and individual donations and the fair itself had 21 business sponsors. In addition, there were 75 backpack sponsors and more than 100 volunteers working the fair.

Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Rocky Mount, who represents Wilson County, stopped by the fair and was impressed by all of the community support she views as reaching people from different backgrounds.

"This is one of the biggest events I’ve seen that involves the whole community,” Bryant said. "This is amazing. It has to create motivation. People do well when they feel included and welcome. Education is based on self-confidence and motivation. To me, it sets you up looking forward to the first day of school.”

The Back-to-School Fair is in its third year in Wilson County. The event was spearheaded by Wilson County Schools Superintendent Sean Bulson who suggested the fair based on a similar event offered by another school district. Bulson and Lynch discussed the possibility, a committee was formed and since its start, the fair has been backed by the Wilson community with an outpouring of support. The Wilson Education Partnership also worked in coordination with the school system to make the event possible. | 265-7818
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Making memories said...

I have wonderful childhood memories that I enjoy recalling now that I'm a senior. My dad use to say "make good memories...because in the end, those memories are heaven-on-earth". Perhaps not if one suffers from dementia or other mental illness; but in his old age, when he was legally blind, hearing impaired and frail with numerous ailments that left him bed-bound, he would spend his hours by recalling the precious memories that gave him "heaven-on-earth" throughout his life. He had a good mind and lots of wonderful memories. Perhaps these children growing up in Wilson will one day look back and remember the good memory of a community's generosity to its children. Perhaps, some of these children will play it forward in their adulthood...volunteering to help others with a generous spirit. Of course, we'll never know the outcome; but I do believe its worth recognizing that the annual gift of a bookbag with supplies will be a happy, inspiring memory when those little ones of today receiving a small, but generous gift, are the senior citizens in the future.

Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 12:42 AM
@to @yes said...

You are speaking about many things at once beyond giving out a backpack so I can’t begin to have time to type in all my thoughts. To the point though: Stop the handout and offer a hand. There is the answer. (Teach a man to fish principle). A backpack is a gift, but effective school-to-work programs are based on strong partnerships between local schools and businesses. These partnerships are essential to broadening and enriching the learning community for both students and instructors. Schools must do all they can to prepare all students for successful and rewarding employment after they complete their education. The key to a success is finding where a school's needs and the resources of a business intersect and can be implemented in a mutually beneficial manner. There is the key to finding out about the most demanded jobs before you go get the 2 year degree in basket weaving that nobody wants.

Friday, August 22, 2014 at 8:50 AM
to @yes we can said...

You make valid points. While I'm a huge supporter of tax-subsidized family planning/birth control (particularly long-term contraception)and the constitutional right to an abortion, I'm sure we wouldn't have thousands of people in line for such, even if it were free. However, inner-city kids in DC's "Dreamers" program (not a reference to immigrants) who were mentored by salaried, dedicated educators who served as mentors are now practicing family planning as adults. They are successful, competent and responsible citizens. All finished high school and some went to college. Some have started their own businesses. I'm encouraged, however, that they're passing on values of hard work and perseverance. As to "give-away" programs like the back-packs, we have the "givers" to blame, as well. I recall one downtown church that "adopted" Hearne School students several years ago. At a missions conference within their denomination, the church had a huge display of pictures of Hearne students receiving their "ministry". I found it patronizing, especially since the church really doesn't want the neighborhood kids and their families in worship with them (part of welcoming those families would mean a change in worship style, particularly music and a little hand-clapping). Members of the church felt pretty good about themselves in their giving - enough to boast about it at the mission conference. I suspect that much of the backpack giving helps givers "feel good" - and it's appropriate to ask if the givers aren't enabling the takers. Which is why I think supplies in the classroom are better than backpacks. (I recall one mother who told me she kept the crayons her child received in the trunk of the car because she didn't want here child drawing on the walls in her house). How do we channel the charitable attitudes into really making a difference? Where are the real success stories among impoverished people and what can we learn from those stories (mentoring is one example...some communities are finding pre-school for all has paid off with kids staying in school, pursuing a post-secondary education, and less crime. Other strategies?

Friday, August 22, 2014 at 2:31 AM
@yes we can said...

Unfortunately the good will you speak about stops when you require people to do something for themselves on the receiving end. Sure they’ll show up for something free, but to actually have to go and do something? Bet if you held the same fair to give away free Scout uniforms to sign up for Scouts you would have gotten 50 people vs 4000? Personal responsibility is no longer followed or even something a lot of people care about. Agreed, there are many who need a helping hand and we have hundreds of ways they can get assistance. Then there are those who abuse a system and often you can't tell the difference. Hate to tell you, but some of the sob stories you got as a teacher were probably gross exaggerations. And finding a job also depends on what you chose as a profession. A college degree doesn't mean much if you don't have experience or a degree in a field which is in demand. I went with computer engineering because it was one of the tops in job availability and if you are willing to travel, you can find a job pretty easily or even work from home. Nursing is another top demanded profession for example. Sometimes it comes down to choices beyond just the effort. Also, businesses do a lot for our community but it’s beyond the handouts. They pay many millions in property taxes so we can have parks, events, services for our families, etc. How quickly we forget. I am all for being philanthropic, but let's improve something instead of just handing out.

Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 9:01 AM
Yes we can said...

As a retired educator, I generally purchased whatever supplies were needed in my early-childhood classroom, rather than issue an across-the-board supply list. I had no way of knowing what parents could afford - who knows if a family's budget is stretched because of medical bills or having to care for an elderly loved one? One child came to school not having had a bath in weeks...his grandmother told me she had no running water after the pipes broke beneath her rental unit. The sorry landlord required her to pay to have them fixed and she had little income caring for two grandkids (their daddy was in prison after murdering their mother). This grandmother stitched the soles back on her grandson's shoes in order to stretch what little she had. In this case, the landlord was the "needy" one...he lacked empathy and a generous spirit. I could tell lots of similar stories of working-class families who have difficulty making ends meet. Early in my teaching career, when I was putting my husband through college and our total income qualified us for first time home-buyers money (and I had a graduate degree), I went to Radio Shack and got their free offer of a flashlight. Wrapped it up and gave it for a Christmas present - it helped make ends meet. Most of us like "free" anything...but some of us need that helping hand when household budgets are stretched. And for most people, employment is a dream come true..but there are too few living-wage jobs. My husband couldn't get a job with his college degree for almost a year. He took odd jobs, but he was generally overly qualified for many positions. This is all to say that we simply do not know what the financial circumstances are or the reasons for lack of employment for anyone who shows up for a give-away of bookbags, food, or yes, flashlights. I do believe that many children would be better helped by providing more than adequate supplies in earlier grade classrooms and providing donated funds for the cost of field trips, uniforms, fees, etc., in the upper grades. To make a difference in the future, our country needs to put as much emphasis and money on family planning resources (contraception, especially long-term contraception) as it has on reducing smoking, heart attacks, and strokes. We need to put more financial resources into education for three year olds, where the gap in achievement begins (that is, preschools that have high standards in achievement for little ones who are eager to learn). Encouraging businesses to sponsor scouting groups would help teach future generations responsibility to one's self and others in terms of education, citizenship, family values (all families, no matter their configuration), etc. Lots more to do than just book bags...but let's harness this goodwill energy in our community to do greater things. Yes, we can.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 3:10 PM
Answers? said...

These bags were purchased from "Five Below"; obviously for $5 or less. The bags contained roughly $5 in supplies.
If people/organizations donated $25 for each bag, then where did the remaining $15 go?
Many unanswered questions here that need to be addressed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 1:46 PM @common sense said...

Speaking of “narrow minded” you shouldn’t assume the few comments here represent the citizens of Wilson. And this event was billed at our company as doing something for the needy. I guess “misinformed citizens” is what we have, including myself. But please don't assume to know what I think because my perception doesn't agree with yours.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 1:03 PM Common Sense said...

How did a back to school fair for children bring up comments about class and who has the means to buy what. This was a back to school fair for anyone I read nowhere in the article that this was about sending poor kids back to school or Wilson County only kids. The fair was for anyone and besides it was more than just giving away book bags.
“The fair offered children’s activities, food and entertainment, including martial arts demonstrations. Behind the school, there were 68 booths set up that offered school information, a host of community resources and food. Not only was the playground available but bounce houses were also set up. Children got the chance to climb inside a fire truck and see EMS, school and police vehicles.”
This seemed to me that this was a back to school fair not a place to get free handouts but an event to get kids excited about going back to school and to have some fun before the summer ends. As usual the citizens of Wilson took the most narrow minded view and made it about someone’s status.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 4:42 AM retired teacher said...

Donating to this cause is not terribly difficult. Thanks to those who did. However, I agree with others that the money would've been better spent on classroom supplies, fees for older aged kids in courses requiring such, books for struggling students paying their way through our community college, playground equipment, field trip fees, etc. Big payoff would be to mentor a child.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 10:00 PM @ @ Bright Idea said...

Even those with less than minimal common sense should know what children should not be punished because their parents are a POS.
The community was not forced to do anything, these were donations.
If you aren't happy with your miserable life, divorce him and move on.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 5:58 PM Funny said...

It's funny that someone can "ride" by and notice nice vehicles. There were several volunteers, school teachers, principals, and others who might own a nice vehicle that's "nice". Just because a certain car is parked there, doesn't mean they were in line for back packs and if they were, so what?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 4:36 PM the system sucks! said...

You think you'd see those same people standing in line for a job? Not hardly

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 3:54 PM reply to "Bright Idea" said...

The ones you refer to as to "go back & sit on our hands" are the actual working people that are fed up w/ how the system works & the sorry people who are abusing it. I'm tired of seeing lazy people in the grocery line using their EBT card to buy groceries while at the same time playing on their expensive phones. Open your eyes, go down to DSS & see the people waiting in the lobby to get more handouts but yet they have the funds to keep an expensive phone running....not sure what world you're living in "Bright Idea"

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 3:51 PM Student of History said...

A couple of thoughts:
1. Judge not, lest ye be judged.
2. Inasmuch as ye has done it unto the least of these, ye has done it unto to me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 2:16 PM Idclare said...

Sad. Makes too much sence to have this handout handled by a school. I love the posts "for the children". Rather than teach "the children" to stand in line. Let some of these lazy free loaders learn a job skill or a trade. How about learn to maintain/grow a garden and grow vegetables
/fruits and wow start a business. There is a noble idea?!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 12:59 PM Maybe said...

all the fancy cars belonged to the people who did not need a backpack. I got a voice mail last week from Amber Lynch stating that even if you did not need a back pack to still come out. Booths were going to be set up to learn about Wilson County Schools, as well as inflatables and door prizes. I know they were probably people who went out there just to get a free back pack but, that's fine. I believe in karma. It will come back to them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 11:40 AM FYI said...

The giveaway was actually for anybody regardless of money are lack thereof. That's why I was so proud to be a part of it. This was for the children and the event went very well. Thanks to all who were able to participate. Looking forward to doing this again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 9:54 AM @Bright idea said...

Even those with minimal common sense know that donating to this event is essentially throwing your money away. People shouldn't be rewarded for making poor decisions, and the community shouldn't be forced to pay for your mistakes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 9:42 AM Shaking My Head said...

I am one of the people who actually went out shopping to get supplies for these kids. The company I work for and my co-workers were happy to give back to the community in any way that we could. The fact is a lot of these people have jobs but still need a little extra help. I have been in that situation myself and it feels good to give back. Or at least it did until I read some of these comments. So you are telling me you never got anything for free? No one every helped you with anything? We are a sad society. I saw some of the kids and the smiles on their faces are thanks enough for me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 9:27 AM Reality said...

I drove by the school several times during the "Back to School Fair". The grounds were indeed packed. I couldn't help but notice that there were countless expensive cars parked there. So, you can afford a fancy new car, but not the materials your children need for school? I feel bad for the local business that donated funds and materials. Priorities people!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 9:04 AM philanthropy said...

The voluntary giving of help to those in need. You do it out of the goodness of your heart. If people abuse it on the receiving end that's their lack of ethics and cross to bear. However, if you know of a needy home/child who is without, step up and go directly to them and do something good for them today! You'll never fix unethical people and those who abuse a system. I'm also pretty sure I heard someone put a few book bags on ebay to make money as well. I think there is a higher power who is going to settle the score one day IMO.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 8:57 AM Quin said...

Here's a thought: don't have children you can't take care of. Exercise some personal responsibility.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 8:46 AM Bright idea..... said...

Did any of you lift a finger during the event or donate anything towards the back to school fair? If you didn't please go back to doing nothing or go sit on your hands until the next story makes the headlines and you can continue to spew your hate.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 7:57 AM Simple solution said...

This could all be handled by giving all of the supplies to each elementary school in the COUNTY of Wilson. Let the teachers and counselors decide which children deserve this gift and really need them. This would weed out all of the out of county people and free loaders.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 4:40 AM @ Teacher said...

Yikes. Seems like for all the leadup to this event and for all the imploring of people and businesses to donate to this cause, the backpacks/supplies could have been distributed in a better, more thoughtful way. Is our charity best served when providing it to those that don't need or qualify for it?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 12:24 AM For the future said...

More Planned Parenthood clinics, please. I used one when I couldn't afford children.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 11:03 PM Cole said...

Jeff is absolutely correct. The "gimme" culture has to stop.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 10:09 PM CNote said...

These people can buy Newports and alcohol, but not school supplies? Sounds like their priotities are backwards.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 10:07 PM Lame Duck... said...

It`s always refreshing to read comments from downer Dave's & negative Nancy's who sit back and assume while making judgments regarding certain classes of people. So, these comments must have from the snobby elite of Wilson.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 8:32 PM said...

"You" people really irk my nerves....and please fill in the "you" people part. This was an event that appears to have served it's purpose. I can afford to purchase school supplies for my child and many of you based on your comments are able to do so as well. However, there are children of know fault of there own, whose parents are simply unable to afford basic things. The article was positive but like many articles those who live in glass houses always point fingers.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 8:28 PM Idclare said...

What an unreal article. These kids are learning absolutely nothing other than how to hold the hand out and and say "gimme mines". Free food, free school supplies, free phones, free housing, free electricity. What else? The transformation is here folks!

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 8:05 PM they would line up for cow manure said...

if it was free.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 7:40 PM Le said...

These same people can buy lottery tickets but they can't afford to buy school supplies for their kids .

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 7:17 PM Teacher said...

Something I saw this year that I hadn't seen before or maybe it just went unnoticed. A student I know came up with several family members, three of the children who received bookbags don't live or attend schools in Wilson. I know this as fact. This makes me very sad.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 6:32 PM @Jeff.... said...

Once again.....I think we all get the point that you're not a fan of President Obama. And as usual you throw in a comment to attempt to sound relevant. Every matter is not political. Thank you, maybe next time!

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 5:24 PM @ Jeff said...

You appear to be one of the problems as well.
Please explain just how PRESIDENT Obama, just one man, screwed up this country.
I did not vote for him, and think he is a socialist.
However, no ONE man can do all of what you probably think he has done.
Blame your Republican representatives as well and then we will have something.
There are many of us who work hard caught up in your Republican boys messes of wanting all of us to be indentured servants to their corporations.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 5:08 PM said...

Think of how much good work could have been done if there was a day of community service to earn the backpack and supplies. It would have both helped the children, as well as taught a valuable lesson of EARNING something. I hope those involved with this outreach program consider this next year. Those that truly need this service will do what it takes to qualify for the supplies, while those who have the ability to pay for their children's supplies but didn't, most likely won't.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 5:05 PM Just sayin' said...

Overheard kids in McDonalds Saturday morning saying they were on their way to Jones to get free backpacks. Only problem was...these kids were from Maryland but were going to use their Wilson cousins' school names to get backpacks.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 3:51 PM Curtis said...

@ said.......WOW... what a powerful statement and I agree with you 1000. percents

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 3:10 PM Jeff said...

4K people line up for handouts? If you can't take care of your offspring, stop having them! Welcome to Obama's America!

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 1:08 PM Parent said...

It was a good event

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 12:17 PM Listen said...

Folks, I have no problem with giving back to my community and helping those who are struggling. However, I question if there is really a need for the "giving away" of 3,000 backpacks filled with school supplies. Perhaps some parents need to put their child or children first and not new cars, a fine cell phone, regular hair styling and coloring, nails done, etc. When I was raising my family, the children came first and I only spent money on myself if anything was left after taking care of my responsibilities and obligations as a parent. I would have been ashamed to accept handouts unless I was working and doing the best I could and still came up short. At no time would I have put my wants and needs before my children. It's a very different society now. How sad for the children!

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 11:42 AM enough said...

in response to "said" community work? They're not going to actually work for it, they're use to a handout...doing community work would interfere with their days of doing long as people are stupid enough to hand out free stuff, they'll stand in line for think they would actually stand in line to look for a job...but wait, that's what the working people are here for - to keep footing the bill

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 11:33 AM Open Minded........ said...

Agreed, low income families often struggle with being able to afford back to school items for their child/children. This was my first year attending this event....and I will simply state the teachers,staff, and volunteers did a wonderful job!There are some people who have an mentality of entitlement.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 11:26 AM me said...

It is a shame that they all come in the best automobiles on the road and expect free things. I know that there are many children whose parents can not afford a book bag, but I think over 1/2 of these folks could buy one. I know that this is true, because I know people who were there.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 10:56 AM said...

What a sorry state of affairs that parents can't afford to send their kids to school with adequate supplies. I also wonder how many would have shown up if instead of just handing them out, they did some sort of community service for the day to earn them.

Monday, August 18, 2014 at 12:55 AM
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