Mary Nelson and dozens of volunteers coordinated supplies and backpacks this weekend during the 11th Annual Youth Day Barbecue. Some volunteers had been onsite for as long as 12 hours with registrations totaling 21,639, according to Mary Nelson.
Staff from the Mary Nelson Center and first time volunteers echoed this year’s theme of “Wake Up, Everybody” by cooking, supervising games, coordinating school supplies and an afternoon of encouraging speakers hoping to motivate students to return to school this fall and avoid violence.
“I feel like I can lend a hand in helping to make this event what it is — about our kids,” said retiree and volunteer Carol Mattice who remembers when the lines used to wrap around the dangerous intersection of Colvin and State streets. Mattice had been onsite since 7 a.m. that morning and expected to be there until cleanup around 8 p.m.
Others, like Mattice, say their families have been recipients of Mary Nelson’s give-away and now volunteer to help ensure children remain safe and that families receive assistance registering to avoid a long wait. The giveaway began at 1 p.m.
School supplies were not the only necessities being given away for free. Clothes, food, sneakers and books were all made available to children.
“We have people who come through and they may not be able to shop so we try to make it a shopping spree experience,” said Beverly Scruggs who mans a free clothing table stacked with apparel for children, women and men. Scruggs and volunteers from People’s African Methodist Episcopal Church on South Salina Street gather clothes from their congregation and coordinate drives throughout the year in preparation for the backpack give-away.
Repeat volunteer and state trooper, Sobrina Vazquez, says she feels it is important for her and other civic members to be visible and involved as well. Vazquez helped to coordinate the sneaker giveaway from first time organizational participants, The Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation.
The foundation donated between 250-300 Nike Darts to students who wrote essays on how school keeps students safe from violence. Boeheim and former SU player Scoop Jardine were present to hand out sneakers and greet students.
Businesses such as The Villa, Upstate Medical and Colgate were all present to offer free folders, loose supplies and free screenings. Carvel Ice Cream was the only vendor to charge a fee, but donated all proceeds made during the event back to the Mary Nelson Center.
Medical students Dorothy Shuldman and Leesha Alex from the Department of Public Health were present to help a young girl exasperated from the afternoon heat and say the event is about more than just giving away free services.
“We’ve sort of adopted the Mary Nelson Center and hope more professionals would come out and share their talents and information about keeping children safe and healthy.”
— By Ruthnie Angrand, The Stand Community Correspondent