August 3, 2008

Blitz Event Scores Whirlwind Success

By Teresa Williams, Thomasville Times-Enterprise, Ga.

Aug. 3--THOMASVILLE -- There was a whirlwind of activity during Saturday's second annual Back to School Blitz.

More than 1,000 parents or guardians and their students breezed through the doors of Southwest Georgia Technical College's Building D to take part in the event, geared toward helping families prepare for the new school year with school supplies as well as a variety of health screenings and information vendors.

"My initial thought is 'what a great way to spend a Saturday morning,'" Shae Taylor, Hands On Thomas County program coordinator, said. "The parents and children are eager to learn as much as they can. We've got 1,800 bags of school supplies made and I think we will probably come close to giving out all of them. This is money and time well spent and well worth it."

The free event was presented by Hands On Thomas County, Family Connection, Southwest Georgia Technical College, Thomas County Schools and Thomasville City Schools.

SWGTC nursing students volunteered to check blood pressure, heart rates, blood sugar and other stats while people like Robin Eason of Eason Eye Care conducted free basic eye exams.

"We've seen about 30 kids so far, testing their depth perception, color vision and sight," Eason said an hour into the event. "We've had four or five who needed a further exam and we've recommended they see an eye care professional. Eighty percent of learning is visual and it is important our kids are able to see properly."

Parents LaTrina Scott and Minesh Patel brought their children to the eye exam.

Scott, who came with her son Bryan Williams, 4, said this is the first time she's participated in the blitz. She said it is a good idea and was learning some useful information, but suggested the event be held a week earlier instead of a few days before school starts.

Patel, who brought his son and daughter to the event, said he enjoyed receiving information about the schools.

Dee Gainous, parent involvement coordinator for Garrison-Pilcher Elementary School, said she'd seen a lot of parents coming up to the county schools' booth to introduce their children to staff.

"I haven't gotten a lot of questions as most of our parents came to open house, but I have had a lot of parents asking how they could be involved in their child's school," she said.

Dr. Dale Graham, director of Thomasville Scholar's Academy and math coordinator for Thomasville City Schools, was enjoying the event.

"It's going fabulous," she said. "It's so great to see so many people here. The energy level is high as everyone prepares to go back to school. It's a chance for everyone to charge their batteries. I'm enjoying seeing all the smiling faces."

Elaine Barrett, volunteer from The Gathering (a church) and assistant principal at Cross Creek Elementary School, said the blitz was more organized in its second year.

"I think doing an event like this is important for the community," she said. "With the economy the way it is, parents have a tough time getting everything children need for school. This is our way of helping them and I think it is a tremendous resource."

Supplies not give out, Taylor said, will be divvied up and donated to the local school systems to help those parents and students who may have been unable to attend the blitz.

Kathy Megahee, director of Family Connection, said she was "blown away" by the turnout.

"We thank everyone who came together -- the schools, the businesses, the individuals, volunteers and vendors -- for helping make this event a success," she said.

Parent Amy Clark made the rounds with daughter Kyla, 13, and sons, Kaden, 3, and Austin, four months.

"We're trying to get ready for the school year," Clark said. "And, this is also a chance for me to learn about preschool opportunities for Kaden for next year."

Taylor is already thinking about next year's event, too.

"I absolutely think we'll do it again next year," she said. "I think it is a wonderful resource opportunity for our community and I would be heartbroken if we didn't have it."


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