Members of the Hodges University Diversity Committee recently took part in the 10th annual back-to-school festival and school supply giveaway, held at the Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers. The Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida hosts its “Big Backpack Event” each year, giving children of low income families an opportunity to receive a free backpack filled with back-to-school supplies for the upcoming school year. Area vendors also provided a wide range of services as well, including free haircuts, vision screenings and fingerprinting.
This year, an estimated 12,000 people attended the free, four-hour event.
"I knew the event was going to be big because of the sluggish economy, but I had no idea it would be this big," said Gail Williams, chairwoman of the Diversity Committee. "From what I understand, the attendance this year was a lot more diverse than in years past. There were many people who were asking for help for the first time. I’m glad we could be part of the event"
For its part, Hodges University donated several gift cards that were placed in various backpacks, enabling the students to use the cards for school uniform purchases.
“I have heard from many of the area school principals who have thanked us profusely for our donation. The need in our area is the greatest that they’ve seen in many years, and we hope to do even more next year,” said Williams.
It was estimated that each child received about $40 in supplies, including a backpack, folders, pencils, pens, loose-leaf paper, crayons and glue. They also picked up special gifts from various vendors, including ticket vouchers for Florida Everblades hockey games, free haircut certificates and free meals at local restaurants.