For students whose parents can afford them, picking out a book bag can be a fun back-to-school outing.
But for those who can’t, coming up with a book bag and other school supplies can be stressful for students and parents alike. That’s one of the reasons Farando “Sly” Best started his “I Support My Community” nonprofit with a book bag drive in 2013.
With the economy suffering and food prices going up, Best says it is difficult enough for parents to feed their children, much less buy back-to-school supplies.
The first year, Best’s nonprofit collected 300 book bags. Last year, as more people throughout the community heard about the book bag drive, the number of donations rose to more than 500.
This year, Best says his goal is to collect more than 700 book bags and school supplies to go in them. So far, however, he says he has only collected 215 book bags.
Most of those came from Wal-Mart. Best says the store’s manager called him two months ago and offered to let him come in and pick out 200 book bags for $1 each.
“It’s very important that those numbers go up,” Best says, “so kids won’t be going to their first day of school without book bags and supplies. It’s up to us to make sure the families that can’t provide for their children get help with what they need.”
Local companies such as Phillips Van Heusen and Pittsburgh Glass Works supported the annual book bag drive for the first two years, and Best says he hopes they will participate again this year.
This year’s distribution will take place in the CenturyLink parking lot in Elkin on Saturday, Aug. 22, from 6 to 8 p.m. Best says he hopes some of the people who donate book bags as well as representatives of businesses and companies which contribute will be there, too, so they can see firsthand how much their generosity means to the children and their families.
The Cato store in Elkin is presently accepting donations for the book bag drive, and Best says the Dollar Tree will begin accepting them on Aug. 17. Anyone who would like to donate a book bag or school supplies to go in them may also drop them off at Best’s Mid-Town Barber Shop at 209 E. Main St. in Elkin.
He is also collecting cleats for boys and girls of all ages to wear playing sports as well as other shoes and clothing for children of all ages.
In addition to the Cato store in Elkin collecting book bags for students, Best says Store Manager Kris Cornelius also donates clothing for children and women to students who need them year-round through the “I Support My Community” nonprofit.
If people have donations, Best says they can drop them off at his barber shop and he’ll find someone who needs them.
The book bag drive is one of several projects started by his “I Support My Community” nonprofit. Best works with football players in grades K-8 through his Junior Elks Football Club. He also sponsors an agility camp for youth every summer.
Best says he hears about a lot of needs in the community in his barber shop and does what he can to help. The nonprofit has held drives for gifts for children whose parents can’t afford to buy them anything for Christmas. For the last two years, for example, supporters of the nonprofit participated in a “Stuff the Bus” trip to Wal-Mart to buy gifts to distribute to struggling families.
His next community project is a Pastors Pageant, which he and his wife, Crystal Artis, are planning for October. Best says they’re a team: “I think of it,” he says, “and she beautifies it, puts it all together.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 336-258-4058.