Club 1600 hosts 10th annual Back-to-School Event

To help ease the cost of buying school supplies, Toastmasters Club 1600 hosted its annual Neil Percent Back-to-School event on Saturday, August 28, in Union Village. The affair takes its name from the late Neil Percentie who died in 2011. The Club 1600 member was a community hero committed to helping others and building up the neighborhood. Photo by Brian McPhee via Precision Media

By: Tosheena Robinson-Blair, BSc, MSc

Although the pandemic added new hurdles, the annual Neil Percentie Back-to-School Giveaway – offering free school supplies and haircuts – returned for its tenth year to help kids get ready to return to virtual learning. 

“Families are struggling. Parents are cautious about how they approach the new school year and students aren’t sure what to expect after 18 months of pandemic disruption, so the goal this year was to bring back something that’s familiar – even though the event was reconfigured to be a drive through, unlike previous years,” said Devaughn Taylor, president of the First Bahamas Branch of Toastmasters Club 1600, organizer of the event. 

“We wanted to let the residents of Union Village know they were not forgotten.”  

Normally, the back-to-school bash would attract parents and children in droves for a fun-filled day celebrating the last days of summer vacation. This year it was a more sedate affair. Still, some things remained the same. 

As in years past children were treated to burgers, hot dogs, drinks and lots of other tasty delights. Two barbers provided free haircuts for boys of all ages to look their best when they return to school.  

Costumed characters directed children to various collection stations. There was one for prepackaged backpacks, another to collect packaged food and the barbers’ station.  

The backpacks contained basic supplies such as pens, pencils and notebooks. Traditionally, the event would have been an all-day affair replete with bouncing castles, face painting, some games and short motivational speeches from club officials. Those elements were shelved this year.  

“Hopefully, the event got the youngsters a little more excited for the start of a new school year and relieved a little bit of stress from parents’ shoulders with a starter kit of back-to-school basics. Our goal is for students to have a successful school year,” said Edward Thurston, education vice president (EVP).  

The event was made possible through the assistance of the Rotaract Club of East Nassau, the Percentie family and the Union Village Association. 

The late Neil Percentie died on September 7, 2011. The Club 1600 member was a community hero, committed to helping others and building up the neighborhood. 

Union Village resident Shawn Smith appreciated the community outreach. He attended the event with his son, Shannon, a sixth grader at C.W. Sawyer Primary School. 

“I’m thankful for the donation, the food and the haircut,” he said. “It’s good to see positive things happening in this neighborhood.” 

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