It was an unlikely hub for a back-to-school distribution, yet over the weekend dozens of volunteers worked around the clock at Bahamas Striping Group of Companies (BSGC) assembly-line style – ripping through boxes, unpacking and stuffing thousands of bags with composition books, pencils, pens and sharpeners for underprivileged children.
“In many of our communities, resources are scarce for parents. Being able to have a company like Bahamas Striping, one that’s a good corporate citizen, allows us through our local youth arms to be able to share with them what’s been shared with us,” said Conrad Jones, the Grand Bahama-based general youth director for the Highway Church of God. The need-based analysis he oversees helps the assembly of churches direct schools supplies to students who need it most regardless of where they reside in The Bahamas.
“Partnering with Bahamas Striping allows our church resources to be able to do more in the local community. To their mix we add geometry sets, crayons, more composition books, even a few tablets purchased by the church for deserving students to help them unleash their creative gifts in music and writing,” said the youth ministry overseer who ensures bags are dispatched to young church members on the Family Islands, helping ease the burden on unemployed or underemployed parents. “Together, we can focus on reducing the cost associated with back to school allowing parents to shift limited funding into other areas. Our two-year partnership with Bahamas Striping allows us to make a big impact with limited resources.”
Pastor Laura Johnson-Taylor of Eljhay’s Hilltop College Ministry’s, an outreach catering to the Biblical “least of these,” the most vulnerable and deprived in society, knows first-hand how every little bit helps those in need. In July, her Kemp Road-based ministry ran a month-long camp catering to children whose ages ranged from three months to 15 years. Nearly 170 children attended. A few came barefoot, some bareback, a couple others unwashed. Pastor Johnson-Taylor provided shoes, shirts, a shower and toiletries for those campers who needed it. All were fed a hot breakfast and a hot lunch during camp hours, from 8 am to 2pm. “We’ll be supplying school bags to all our school-aged children from camp as well as children who attend our other outreach ministries,” shared Pastor Johnson-Taylor, the Urban Renewal Commission’s 2019/2020 Mother of the Year for Freetown. “All of our children from camp are the least of these. They are the disenfranchised children. They are coming out of homes where they live with grandparents. They might have parents who cannot adequately deal with them. We have some children who have parents, but they are not working, or they are only working one or two days. We feel no child should be left behind and we do our best to always make sure the least of these are taken care of.”
In her third year of collaboration with BSGC, she has seen how the school bag donation provide parents with a sense of relief and she expressed gratitude for Bahamas Striping’s contributions. “I’m excited about the few persons who have been continuously giving. It’s why I lift-up Bahamas Striping Group of Companies. Every time I look, they are just blessing people and making things well for persons,” said Pastor Johnson-Taylor. “Whether people realize it or not, some are out here trying but the struggle is real. Bahamas Striping is helping parents to move one step forward and it’s a big blessing.”
In her community, children are being left at home to care for their younger siblings, she reported. Some parents are unable to find the requisite bus fare, lunch or lunch money necessary for their children to attend a camp outside the neighborhood – even if it’s low or no cost.
Working on the ground, the pastor knows the parents most in need in her community as well as the ones who make the rounds at all back-to-school events collecting and later selling bags to the parents who were unable to attend. “I’ve said for a long time, let’s group together and do a proper back-to-school event. Everyone is in their little fragmented areas giving out bags,” she said. “For our organization and in our community, we know our children. We know our parents. We know what they’re going through. We know of their history and the experience we have had with them and so we make sure they get. We keep records of everyone who we assist to make sure we follow-up with them to find out how we could assist in other ways.” Also on hand to gather school bags for their back-to-school extravaganza was Pastor Stephen C Munroe and wife, Nadine.
In its second year of affiliation with Bahamas Striping, the Munroes received 200 school bags for their August 24, event which runs from 11 am to 4pm at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium. According to the couple, 4,000 individuals pass through their massive back-to-school event which provides uniforms, shoes, backpacks and school supplies to thousands of students returning to the classrooms. “Anything you give in the hands of God will multiply. Little is much when God is in something. If you give a little, she gives a little, they give a little, eventually that little becomes much and eventually we will be able to impact a nation,” said Pastor Munroe, senior pastor at Believers Embassy International.
A very organized undertaking, the Munroes utilize a ticketing system to keep proceedings orderly. In its fourth year, the event is more than a typical giveaway where persons come, receive and leave. The fun day comes complete with a merry go round, a bouncing castle, free food, free haircuts for the boys and free hairstyling for girls. “We have the same partners year after year. We have a lot of people out there suffering and so we need a lot of assistance not just financial but also in labor. We thank God for Bahamas Striping. Two hundred bags go a long way. The students are grateful, and the parents are very grateful,” she said.
Rather than host an event, Bahamas Striping teams up with charitable and civic organizations, like Rotary, to distribute its 10,000 bags containing back-to-school supplies.With this latest effort, 85,000 bags have been distributed since the program’s inception in 2013.
“Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it sometimes takes a team to prepare a child to return to the classroom,” said Fredericka Sturrup, BSGC’s vice president of human resources and operations.
“We couldn’t do this alone. From those who partnered with us to ship and breakdown 14 pallets of school supplies to those who collaborated with us on the distribution end, this is a team effort. By the end of the week when our office would have returned to normal, we all will take pride in knowing that we did our small part to help 10,000 children be just a bit more prepared for the new school year.”