The First Annie’s Outreach “Back to School Bash” was a success.
That’s the unanimous assessment of the volunteers distributing hundreds of clothing and school supplies to some 270 Coffee County children during the First Annie’s Outreach “Back to School Bash” held Aug. 3 at the Wiregrass Outdoors building in Enterprise.
The distribution day event was the culmination of months of donation collection, fundraising events and volunteer coordination, according to Annie’s Outreach Founder Matt Larson.
Flashing her trademark ear-to-ear smile, Coffee County Family Services Executive Director Judy Crowley agreed as she surveyed the bee-hive of activity in the building that was donated for use by owner David Owens.
“We are committed to giving back to the community,” Owens said about his decision to donate use of his indoor archery range to the Annie’s Outreach event. “When we bought this building, our intention was to do something for kids. We just like to give back.”
Fran Garza was among the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority members volunteering with the setup and distribution. “This is just amazing, the generosity of the Wiregrass area just makes your heart smile,” she said. “Volunteers came in and just started filling back packs. It was really nice. Everybody just pitched in wherever they were needed.”
That is true, said Elaine Ridenour, one of the volunteers from the Republican Women of Coffee County on site for the operation. “We are here as part of our local participation in the National Federation of Republican Women’s Caring for America Campaign,” she said. “This Annie’s Outreach project is a community outreach program that we are proud to be a part of.”
Planning for the event began months ago Larson said. “This summer we had different collection drives with collection bins in certain businesses in town where their customers could donate socks or underwear for the kids,” Larson said. “We’ve also had customers fill bags with designated school supplies in the (Annie’s) restaurant. It’s been a long process this whole summer.”
Crowley said that fliers announcing the outreach had been distributed at the end of the school year and eligible families signed up over the summer months. The backpacks were assigned to specific children and were filled with an exact school list from their particular school.
“Each child gets to ‘shop’ for clothing and new shoes,” Crowley said. “We started collecting backpacks in May. Matt (Larson) raised the money for that. That’s how most of it came in $3, $4, $5 at a time.”
Sue Byrd, owner of Daughter Dear, Unique Boutique and Pure Imagination, donated some 300 boxes of new shoes. “We were told it would be for 270 kids but I brought more than that so people could have options,” she said. “I got involved in this because I’m friends with Matt (Larso) and when I saw what he was doing I thought about how I could help.
“Everybody needs a good pair of shoes for school,” Byrd said. “I thought that donating all the shoes would be one thing that I could do.”
“This is our first back to school bash,” Larson said as he surveyed the children and their parents shopping for shoes. “So this is something that is going to grow. We hope to help 400 or 500 children next year.
“We had a lot of help from volunteers, business owners, civic groups, churches and our customers,” Larson said. “It’s been overwhelming. It turned out very well.”