Local News

Efforts underway to help returning students with supplies

SEBRING - Several women, including Phyllis Bippus, Char Barthel and Patricia Sholtz, helped prepare Tuesday at Union Congregational Church in Avon Park gifts of school supplies that included pencils, glue and notebooks for an estimated 300 children. "It's a nice thing to do," Barthel said. "I just love kids." Barthel taught children in special education classes for 30 years in Ohio. Sholtz has also learned the need first hand through being a substitute teacher, she said. "It's a great thing to be able to give the kids," she said.
Thanks to the efforts of those women, most of whom belong to Sebring Aglow Community Lighthouse, a non-denominational Christian group containing both men and women, and others involved in other programs, several hundred children will receive school supplies this year in Highlands County. In Sebring organizers are preparing to hold the 14th Annual Back to School Bash at the Boys and Girls Club of Sebring. The event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 17 will provide free school supplies and backpacks for children in grades kindergarten through six, said Robert C. Saffold, an organizer. Saffold said fewer backpacks will be available this year because of the way they received them. Therefore, he said, they are continuing to look for donations. Donations can be made by calling Saffold at (863) 214-7700 or Bud Phagan, board president for the Boys and Girls Club of Sebring at (863) 471-0228. Saffold, a retired teacher, said he helped start the program after seeing children come to school unprepared. "Sometimes they didn't have pencils or pens or whatever else they needed," he said. The event, which is expected to draw at least 350 children, also is expected to include barbers who will donate services and a representative of the Highlands County Health Department. It's being sponsored by the Florida Sportsman's Association, Washington Heights Concerned Citizens Group and the Boys and Girls Club of Sebring. But the aim also is to provide fun for children. The event will include at least three clowns from Toby's Clown School, bounce houses, music, hot dogs, pop corn and a basketball tournament. Additionally, a trip has been organized in which parents and students will ride an Amtrak train Aug. 15 to the Millennia Mall. But Saffold said the event is more about giving children a chance to ride the train. Although the original deadline for registration was Aug. 1, Saffold said, there still may be an opportunity to take the trip. School supplies organized by Sebring Aglow will be given out on Aug. 17 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the YMCA to children in grades kindergarten through five. Bippus said they expected to give out 300 bags of supplies or 50 for each grade. Some backpacks will be given away also. Meanwhile, the Avon Park Jaycees and Young Farmers and Ranchers have donated 30 and 20 backpacks, respectively, to Avon and Park elementary schools. The supplies have been delivered to guidance counselors. "We want to make sure as many kids as possible go back to school on the right footing," said Ian Belanger, chairman of the board for the Avon Park Jaycees. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834