On Thursday morning back to school season didn’t mean adults buying school supplies for their own families, but rather the opposite.

About 30 people came to the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce building to donate school supplies and money to help students with cash-strapped families get the required pencils, notebooks, crayons, rulers and other items to help them navigate through a sea of knowledge.

The chamber was one of several groups in town collecting back-to-school items for disadvantaged children.

Glenda White, of the chamber, said about $127 was collected to help purchase the required items, as well as “a whole lot of supplies.”

According to Thursday’s Back to School Special Section in the Register, a pre-packaged set of school supplies for the average Gainesville ISD elementary school student costs $43.66.

Marcia Schmitz, director of the Gainesville ISD Education Foundation, distributed the items collected by the chamber to Edison Elementary School, Chalmers Elementary School and Lee Intermediate School.

Rae Ann Gerken of St. Mary’s Catholic School and Charles Luke, superintendent of Gainesville ISD, spoke to those gathered for the event and breakfast mixer.

More help is expected from the Christian community in Gainesville.

According to Rameses Gibbs, an “armor bearer” and youth minister for All Power Ministries, the newly-formed apostolic church hopes to solicit an army of local businesses to buy school supplies for at least 50 families.

“We’re excited about, number one, giving back to the community and, number two, helping the children of Gainesville,” Gibbs said, adding the idea “resonated in our spirits” when he spoke to his wife about the idea.

He said children having all the proper supplies, as well as perhaps some new threads, gives them “pride and a sense of knowing they got what they needed.”

He said the donations are a tax write-off for businesses, so it’s a “win-win situation.”

Gibbs said he is working with another church member to host a “back-to-school gospel bash” concert at Leonard Park on Labor Day. He said remaining supplies would be given to children at the event if requested.

“We want people to lift up the name of the Lord without having to worry about their pocketbooks so much,” he said.

He said the church, which meets at 115 E. Hird St. in the former Odd Fellows Lodge, may be visited Sundays from 10 a.m. to around 2 p.m. for more information and may be contacted at 668-7599.

The Methodists are also in on the act.

Whaley United Methodist Church organized a donation drive for the required school supplies and delivered them to the chamber building Thursday morning. Whaley UMC meets at 701 Rosedale Drive at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. and may be contacted at 665-5588.

First United Methodist Church is thinking more from the ground up with its “Soles for Souls” program.

According to Kristi Bloom, communications director for the church, the congregation is collecting shoes for children in grades kindergarten through sixth. A donation box is located in the church building, located at 214 S. Denton St., and monetary donations are accepted.

Bloom said a “shoe dedication” is scheduled for the Sunday morning worship service at 10:45 Aug. 13. She said the shoes would not be just for Gainesville’s little feet but also for students in the surrounding area.

Gainesville’s civic organizations are also involved in the school supplies round-up. The Gainesville Kiwanis Club, which meets Tuesdays at noon at the Neu Ranch House, is gathering supplies and shops for families requesting assistance from them, or who have been referred by the schools.

Patti Mercer, principal of Chalmers Elementary School, said when she receives items for distribution to the children, she and her staff do their best not to embarrass the kids.

“We try to discreet about it as not to offend them,” she said.

Mercer said the education process flows more freely when the students are properly equipped.

“We’re looking forward to a productive and positive school year,” she said. “Having the right tools helps with that — they go hand-in-hand.”

School supplies lists may be obtained from either of the schools or the Gainesville Wal-Mart Supercenter on U.S. Highway 82. For more information contact Edison Elementary at 665-6091, Chalmers Elementary at 665-4147 or Lee Intermediate at 668-6662.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr@ntin.net

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