By Curt Yeomans
Nearly 80 foster children from across the Southern Crescent got to see if they could be the best dancer, or hula hooper on Thursday when they came to pick up some school supplies from the DaVida "Southern Express" Dialysis Center in Riverdale.
The children had their choice of backpacks, which were green, pink, blue or see-through plastic. Each child also received a couple of highlighters, some folders, college-ruled paper, a bottle of glue, a bottle of hand sanitizer, pens, pencils and erasers. Some backpacks even included calculators.
Officials from nine, local DaVida Dialysis Centers in Clayton, Henry and Spalding counties distributed the backpacks, filled with the school supplies, to the children as part of an outreach project.
"Our parent company gave us a challenge to help improve our communities. We decided we could do it by helping the children get the supplies they need for school," said Tracy Holman-Speights, the group facility administrator for the center in Riverdale.
Although officials anticipated 100 foster children would show up to get backpacks and supplies at the luau-themed distribution party, DaVida officials planned for 200 children just to be prepared for a larger turnout.
Two weeks ago, boxes were placed in the lobby of each of the centers so employees and patients could drop off supplies. Each box was decorated in a school theme, such as a big blue locker, a school bus, or a school house.
Foster families were notified about the distribution by Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) offices across the Southern Crescent.
Officials ran into problems with turnout, though, since people trickled in through the early hours, but Holman-Speights said she thought more families would show up later in the day as parents got off from work. Then a pop-up shower passed overhead, and sent people scrambling for shelter.
Although officials did not have an exact figure as to how many supplies were donated, they were pleased by the response from the people who donated the items. "The amount we got was actually more than we expected," said Holman-Speights. "We definitely collected enough supplies for at least 200 children."
The centers received some community support from the Building an Affirmative Life of Legacy (B.A.L.L.) Teen Team mentoring program. The Teen Team members helped distribute supplies. They also served as judges in a contest to determine which DaVida location had the best design for its collection boxes.
The teens chose the North Henry Center, which had a big yellow tower with pictures of children walking around the base
"Anything that has to do with helping children, especially getting them supplies for school, we're eager to participate in," said Princess Black, president of B.A.L.L.
The amount of supplies donated was so high that there was a large surplus left over, even though distribution was opened up to the general public for a few hours after the party ended for the foster children.
Yolanda Nealy, a guest services specialist at the DaVida center in Riverdale, said the excess supplies were distributed among local schools, local Publix stores for their back to school drives, and to DFCS offices in Clayton and Spalding counties.
"We would have liked to help more children obtain school supplies, but other than that, everything went great," Nealy said. "We did achieve our goal of giving out supplies to the children."