Students from three local schools got a special gift Saturday before school starts back.
The Yadkin Family YMCA bused three schools to Elkin Saturday morning to give them a free shopping trip.
The day started as three buses rolled into the Walmart shopping center in Elkin at 8 a.m. Students from Jonesville and West Yadkin Elementary Schools and the Yadkin Success Academy were taken to one of three sites and rotated around: Raffles, Shoe Show and Walmart.
Shoe Show and Raffles each brought in additional staff and opened ahead of normal business hours to help the students.
“The Y provides for them new shoes and a haircut and a $50 gift card for clothes,” Joyce Hamby said. Hamby is the membership director for the YMCA.”This is out second year doing this and each year we want to grow and expand the program. Our goal is to help all of the elementary schools in Yadkin County with this project.”
“The school identifies all the children for us,” Tres Fordham said. Fordham is the YMCA’s executive director.
Each student is paired with an adult volunteer who helps them pick out clothing and shoes. The adult kept track of the gift card and makes sure the shoes fit correctly.
“These volunteers that do this and shop with the kids give of their day to help out,” Hamby said. “It’s a fantastic way for people to not only give to help those kids but also to volunteer to help.”
Many volunteers go beyond just carrying the gift card. Hamby says they often put in their own money to help the students buy more clothes before school starts.
“They help with that and just form a bond and a relationship to help encourage them and have them start off the year with success,” Hamby said.
There were 53 students signed up for the shopping trip but only 49 were able to make it out. Rather than head home the volunteers who had no students shopped anyway, trying to find clothes and shoes that would put a smile on the childrens’ faces when they received them later.
Each student was taken to get a new pair of shoes, then next door for a haircut. Most took the YMCA up on the offer but a few liked their current style of cut too much to change it.
Children and their volunteers were bused over to Walmart to finish their shopping, pushing buggies with socks, shirts and other needed items around before making their way outside to the parking lot for a group photo.
The money for the trip is funded by the YMCA’s annual fundraising events.
“All of this comes from our Annual Giving Campaign, which we do every year to raise funds for scholarships and help those kids that are deserving and in need,” Hamby said.
Mark Moran is the head of the campaign.
“It’s our Annual Giving Campaign. We have it association wide and each branch has its own individual campaign,” Moran said. “It helps those that maybe can’t afford a full membership or participate in a program, so it sort of supplements that.”
Last year the organization had a goal of around $81,000 but raised $86,000. This year’s goal was $92,000 and they raised roughly $96,000.
Members of the Statesville United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 3520 joined in helping YMCA volunteers this year.
Jerry Hodge, president of the N.C./S.C. UAW Community Action Program said the group had volunteered with a similar organization in Yadkinville last year which led them to the Y’s program.
“Last summer, a year ago, our director out of Lebanon, Tenn. tasked all the presidents with getting involved in community actions that are fighting poverty,” Hodge said. “So we started out in Yadkinville working with the Circles of Care. It’s a group that targets breaking the ties in generational poverty.”
“That’s sort of what has introduced us to the ‘Bright Beginnings’ project and Yadkin, because a lot of the kids really are some of the same kids that come through the ‘Circles of Care’ program,” Hodge said.
Earline Shoemaker of Shoe Show told The Tribune the YMCA’s outreach had been a major blessing to her over the two years they had worked together.
“[This is the second year] and I love it. I know why the Lord put me at Shoe Show now,” Shoemaker said before starting to cry. “I just love kids, I love people. And I love the YMCA.”
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