This past Friday we hosted our annual back-to-school bash for the children living at the Sulzbacher Center. Two activities were planned to get the kids excited about going back to school. The first activity was a back to school clothes shopping trip to Old Navy. With excitement in the air, the first busload of children arrived at Old Navy at 8 a.m. and the second busload of kids arrived at 9:00. Close to 100 children, who receive services from the Sulzbacher Center, got to pick out a new outfit for their first day of school. This is the fifth year in a row we partnered with Old Navy for back to school shopping. The great thing about Old Navy is that they offer very stylish outfits at and affordable price, but they also carry school uniforms. Some, but not all, schools in Duval County require students to wear uniforms.
Not only did the kids get to shop, but they also got to enjoy an evening full of fun before heading back to school. We were afraid that it was going to rain because the clouds had been looming all day. After weeks of planning we did not want to have to cancel our back-to-school party, but as 4 p.m. approached the sky was clear and we were able to let the fun commence. The front of the children’s center was filled with bounce houses, music, ring toss, popcorn, cotton candy, snow cone machines and carnival style games to get the kids pumped up and excited about their return to school. To start the year off on the right foot, each child received a colorful new backpack loaded with brand new school supplies. Each backpack had a child’s name on it and was handpicked by our dedicated children’s program staff based upon the child’s personal preference.
“We want the kids to feel confident and excited about returning to school”, says Maxine Engram the Child Development Program Manager. The kids ran around with their faces painted and their new slap bracelets in hand. The DJ played “I Smile” as the kids and parents sang the words, “It’s so hard to look up when you’ve been down. Sure would hate to see you give up now. You look so much better when you smile, so smile.” At the end of the party dinner was served by Chef Kurt. He cooked up tasty hotdogs, hamburgers and coleslaw. As the evening came to a close it was clear to see how excited the party had made the kids to start back to school on Monday with their new outfit and backpack in tote.
This event wouldn’t be possible without our amazing donors Mitch and Chris Stone, North Jacksonville Baptist Church, Mario Butler Foundation and Roger and Sheila Williams.
My name is Don Robertson known to many Sulzbacher residents as Dr. Don. Like many in Jacksonville, I am retired and enjoying my “golden years” on the First Coast but something was missing so I began to look around for a place where I could make a contribution.I had previously donated items like clothes and bicycles to the Sulzbacher Center so I thought I would see if they had an area where a retired Professor of Computer Science and Information Systems could contribute or at least make himself useful. Low and behold they had a computer lab as part of their Life Skills Program where clients could do job searches, prepare resumes and complete online job applications. This was not all; these same clients could use the lab to apply for food stamps, submit for unemployment, seek out birth certificates, deal with tax problems and even track down lost family members. I knew the computer side and Ms. Megan Riggs, the Education and Career Training Coordinator who runs the lab for the Center, was willing to teach an “old dog new tricks” like the ins and outs of things like the food stamp and medicare programs. There seemed to be a fit so I volunteered to come in for two or three hours on Tuesday and Thursday. This did not last for long because as soon as the first resident I had helped got food stamps and another applied online and got a job so she could start over I was hooked. Every success is very satisfying and makes you want to do more so I agreed to extend my hours from two or three on Tuesdays and Thursdays to three or four hours Monday through Thursday. I was, as I said the previous paragraph, hooked. I enjoyed my time with the residents and found myself wanting to go even further. I purchased and donated a scanner and a couple of dozen high quality headsets with microphones to be used in customer service training and have now purchased over 500 thumb drives so each client can store their resumes, birth certificates, and training certificates on their own personal storage device. It is not all work however; I have donated an equal number of pairs of personal ear buds so they can utilize the audio functions associated with the computers without disturbing their neighbors. I can say without reservation that if you want the satisfaction of making a meaningful contribution to those, who for one reason or another have fallen on hard times, the Sulzbacher Center is the place for you. If you do not have time, there are other ways to make a contribution, just look around the web site for ways to donate. You’ll be surprised how good it makes you feel.