From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., more than 250 volunteers worked the near assembly line of health exams, hearing exams, haircuts, dental exams and stuffing backpacks full of school supplies for the students. The Bartow College and Career Academy hosted the event this year, which co-director Terry Terrell was thankful for.
“I would like to point out one thing before I say anything else. We have been so grateful to the Bartow College and Career Academy,” he said. “This is our first year with them. We actually took pictures of every room ... we categorized it. We’ve got it taped on the wall. They want that room just like that when we’re done, and we’re going to put it [back].”
The new, larger location came as Bartow Give a Kid a Chance expanded not just in students served, but in volunteers and sponsors as well. Approximately 30 dental hygienists, 13 hair salons and an expanded roster of sponsors became involved this year. So many people were interested in volunteering, said co-director Carolyn Fairchild, the organization had to cut off registration.
However, the success in both serving students and gathering volunteers has its downside.
“Well, unfortunately, it’s getting bigger,” said Terrell. “Our goal is that we don’t have to provide these services. That would be the goal, but we’re here if they need us.”
Bartow Give a Kid a Chance started in 2008 as an Eagle Scout project by Terrell’s son, Miles. Since then it has steadily served a larger number of children in need before they go back to school.
“This is helpful,” said Yanik Beckley, as her three children sat for a dental exam. “I got three of them, so school supplies times three, plus clothes and stuff — this really helps out a lot. ... I had lost my job, so trying to get their school supplies and book bag ... it’s going to help tremendously.”
With planning starting in March for this year’s event, Terrell said the all-volunteer organization raised $25,000 to purchase needed supplies, such as backpacks. When he took into account approximately $75,000 worth of donated paper materials, as well as provided services, Terrell believed Bartow Give a Kid a Chance had raised approximately $100,000 all told.
“I think over the years people are getting more and more used to the name Bartow Give a Kid a Chance and everybody seems like they want to be a part of it now. ... Every penny that we bring in is spent on this program. No paid staff whatsoever. I think that’s attractive to a lot of volunteers,” he said.
Among the expanded offerings were a body mass index calculation now required for the state’s Form 3300. The intention, Terrell explained, was to allow parents one stop for getting all the health checks out of the way. If a child failed a particular check, parents were referenced to a health care provider specializing in the issue and pointed toward PeachCare or Medicare, if needed. When students reached the end of the screenings and supply distribution, they were given a lunch. All told, Fairchild estimated it took an hour for the students to get from sign-in to the end.
To ensure the children and parents who sign up have a need for the supplies, Terrell said Bartow Give a Kid a Chance is promoted via the school lunch program.
“That’s actually how we target most of the kids is we put a flyer in the summer lunch program and it says, hey, this is available to you, here are the locations you can sign up online. ... That’s how they get the message out. We don’t just put an ad in the paper and say, hey, come on and get you a free book bag. We try to get the ones that are at risk in the county,” Terrell said.
Kelly Whitmire, the homeless liaison for Bartow County School System, said any excess supplies left over at the end of the day were collected by counselors from both the county and Cartersville school districts to be handed out to new students arriving in the districts or other students in need. With enough supplies for roughly 2,000 students, Terrell said, even after the first come, first serve period between 4 and 5 p.m. at the end of the day, there were always supplies left over.
“It’s about the kids. Definitely not about us and we try to keep that in focus,” Terrell said. “When we talk about everything, we talk about this is about helping kids in the community and it’s also a huge thing for volunteers to come and help out. It gives them an avenue to come and actually be involved in something. That’s a big part of it too.”