A back-to-school drive was full of smiles on Saturday as families in need collected donations for the new school year.
Community activist Gina Spence’s Gina Spence Productions organised the event as part of her Each One Reach One Back To School Drive.
Nkosazana Wilson got gift certificates from the Gibbons Company, MarketPlace and sportswear store Sidekicks as well as a school gift pack given to all families.
Ms Wilson’s daughter, Ny’Ashia Ferguson-Wilson, 11, is part of the Gina Spence Production Champions programme set up to help children who have lost loved ones through violence and tragedy.
Her father Colford Ferguson was shot dead in 2011.
Ms Wilson said: “This is very, very well appreciated. We have had an extremely hard summer I lost my mom in July. This has been a big help.”
She added her daughter still suffered problems as a result of her father’s death.
Ms Wilson said: “It’s been a while now. My daughter is starting middle school; she has been without her father since she was 4.
“She is in the preteen stage and everything is going on. She sees children with their fathers and it’s very emotional for her.”
About 250 people benefited from the drive which was able to raise $17,000, some $4,000 more than the original target.
The extra cash meant that each family got a surprise gift of at least $25 per child.
Etty Furbert, 4, was over the moon with her pink school bag and pencil case but the silver and pink ring was her prized possession of the day.
Elani Furbert, her nine-year-old sister, was also pleased with her supplies and their brother Remi Furbert, 6, was looking fit for school after a free haircut.
Their grandmother, who asked not to be named, said this year was the first time she had come to the drive.
The woman said: “It makes it a little easier, we reached out and we are happy they were able to help us and we were able to take some of the clothes.
“We have still got to go and shop for shoes and sneakers and many other things and it mounts up, it really does.”
Mikayla Lema, 10, got a new bag and pencil case themed on the smash hit Disney cartoon Frozen as well as a shirt and pants.
She said: “I feel very grateful because some people don’t get any stuff.”
Mikayla’s family helps support an orphanage in Haiti, which holds similar drives.
Her mother, Naomi, said: “It is helpful. I do have family members who help but this takes the load off them.
“Whatever extra Makayla has she hands out to people as well. We are used to helping through the orphanage in Haiti.”
Nevaeh Matias, 7, got a Minions cartoon-themed bag on wheels for her school gear and a pencil case.
She said: “I love my bag, I’m happy. It has sparkles on it.”
Mychel, Ms Spence’s daughter, volunteered at the event.
She said: “Thanks to every person who supported the cause, we were able to give every person who walked through the doors a gift certificate to either Gibbons Company, the English Sports Shop, Sidekicks or MarketPlace.
She added that the extra $25 a child was well received.
Mychel said: “It’s been very emotional. We didn’t tell the public that we were going to do that and when they came they said they thought they were just getting used clothes now they have the opportunity to buy at least a brand-new white shirt.”
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