Back-to-School Event Serves Thousands
By Christopher Bony
Grade school students left the North Florida Fairgrounds Saturday morning with filled backpacks, new haircuts, prizes and the memory of a community event that will be difficult to forget.
Thousands of people in the community gathered for the Eighth Annual Jacob Chapel Back-to- School Experience and enjoyed many activities and performances by local musicians and youth organizations.
“We’re just grateful for the spirit of outreach that our people are committed to,” said Rev. O. Jermaine Simmons. “We know that the people of the community needs this assistance, and we’re happy to help as much as we can.”
Simmons said the community event started out in Jacob Chapel’s fellowship hall and grew to the large annual event at the fairgrounds with the help of several sponsors including Walmart, Comcast, Mayor Gillum’s office and many more.
Several of Tallahassee’s barbers, hair stylists and local volunteers donated their entire day to make sure hundreds of students were looking their best for the first day of school.
Gary Rhodes, a professor at the Barbering school at Lively Technical Center, came out with one of his colleagues to cut hair for the entire time of the event.
“We realize that parents have a lot of ground to cover when getting their kids ready for the school year,” said Rhodes. “We want to help lessen the financial burden. This is just something we wanted to do to help get these students off to a good start.”
Half of one of the exposition rooms was filled with men and women with their fingers intertwined with hair, constantly braiding. Susie Sanders, a church member at Jacob Chapel, said most of the hair supplies and extensions were donated by Q and Q Beauty Supply store located on South Monroe Street.
Rarely was there anyone standing still. Students got their faces painted. Backpacks filled conference-length tables. And parents and children looked through a room filled with donated clothes and shoes for local kids and adults.
Michael Theodore, another church member and volunteer, said the members of the community are extremely proud of what this event has become. The event served more than 5,000 students.
“There is so much here for the people and students,” said Theodore. “I think it’s very important that a child looks their best for school because that helps increase their self-esteem and in my opinion that is increased self-worth which equals increased success.”