With surging inflation bearing down on this year’s back-to-school spending, more low and middle-income families are turning to giveaway events than ever before.
Take Pamela Wallace-Seymour, for instance. The mother of six – most now grown – and a grandmother of six, ages two to 10-year-old, has attended the Neil Percentie Back-to-School Giveaway in Union Village every year since it first debuted back in August 2012.
By providing basic school supplies to families in the area, she admits the event organized by Toastmasters Club 1600 helps fill the gaps.
“Getting them ready has been a challenge but since the event happens every year, stress is taken off parents because they don’t have to pay for haircut or books.”
With backpacks, notebooks and writing material checked off her list, Mrs Wallace-Seymour said she can turn her attention to more important matters, uniforms. She has to purchase more of them this year and they are “the most costly things to get.”
Kendra Outten agrees.
“Uniforms are usually the most expensive items when back-to-school shopping,” said the mother of two boys, ages 13 and nine-years-old.
To help save a few bucks she too attended the back-to-school event held Saturday, August 20, at Union Village Park. Her goal was to bag notebooks and backpacks. She succeeded.
“It is a good unwind activity for them. The supplies available is a good addition and help.”
According to event organizer, The First Bahamas Branch of Toastmasters Club 1600 – a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a network of clubs – more families attended the annual event than ever before.
Aside from providing school supplies, Club 1600 offered free haircuts and an assortment of soft drinks sponsored by Limeade Bahamas and Commonwealth Brewery Ltd. The Union Village Committee partnered with the club to provide free burgers, hot dogs, wings, fries, drinks and ice cream to nearly 200 community members.
“There was roughly a 15 to 20 percent increase for the purchase of supplies, but the major objective was to add an additional 50 plus bags for distribution,” said Club President Ray-Don Poitier.
“We met our goal of giving 100 backpacks filled with school supplies plus an additional 50 bags of supplies donated by our sponsors. We worked along with Rotary Club of East Nassau and Bank of the Bahamas to distribute 150 bags containing books, pencils, rulers.”
In these trying times, Mr Poitier added, “a little goes a long way.”
In his brief address to students, the club president encouraged youngsters to think about their future success. He pointed to crucial areas for growth: respect, integrity, service and excellence.
“Put these keys together and you will open the lock to success.”
He also encouraged students to follow in the footsteps of Neil Percentie when it comes to giving back to the community.
The man from which the back-to-school event takes its name is a former Union Village community leader and Toastmaster. The late Neil Percentie was fatally shot on September 7, 2011. Prior to his death, he carried out similar charitable works in the area.
For Quintin Percentie, Neil’s brother, the Toastmasters’ event not only commemorates but serves as “an extension” of his sibling’s work in community.
“The back-to-school giveaway cuts cost as it allows parents to spend funds on other items to prepare children for school.”
With higher prices on food and fuel due to rising inflation, parents are making fewer purchases and looking for more ways to cut corners as The Bahamas gradually emerges from the pandemic.
Said Ms Outten: “The VAT holiday is a big help and with different events like this [the giveaway] you don’t have to spend much.”