The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) recently coordinated the Remote Area Medical Access Community Corridor hosted by Manatee Technical College. During the After Action Review meeting, I had the opportunity to speak about the next big SCGLR project I was looking forward to: organizing logistics for the Kindergarten Readiness Bags. I spoke about the care and planning that is needed to prepare our incoming kindergartners for their first year of school. After I finished, Nancy Lawerence, in charge of marketing and events for Manatee Technical College, immediately offered assistance.
In the spring of 2017, SCGLR supplied 2,200 Kindergarten Readiness Bags to all Title I schools in both Manatee and Sarasota counties. Each brightly colored tote contained educational tools for parents and children, including magnetic letters, jumbo crayons, flashcards, books, drawing pads, erasable alphabet charts, and a pamphlet entitled, Kindergarten Readiness: Practical Skills Every Child Needs as they Enter Kindergarten.
The project grew thanks to excitement surrounding school readiness. Even some non-Title I schools raised funds to purchase bags for their incoming students. It was at this time I became acquainted with Sarasota County Rotary Leader, Jim Henry. As soon as Jim Henry learned about the bags, he knew he could get support from the Rotary Clubs.
The program has grown in 2018 thanks to partnerships with Sarasota County’s Rotary Clubs, The Rotary Club of Sarasota Foundation, and the School District of DeSoto County. This year, SCGLR will deliver 5,000 bags to students in DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties and an additional 1,000 bags to Charlotte County.
Manatee Technical College (MTC) is a state of the art facility that is run by dedicated and caring leaders. Even after SCGLR sent a very detailed, overwhelming request asking MTC to receive and house 61,200 pieces of educational materials for two weeks and to host 134 volunteers to work for four eight-hour days, their first question was, “When do we expect the first shipment?”
We couldn’t have asked for a better, more-willing partner for this project.
Even though they hosted three large events the week SCGLR and its volunteers were working, MTC still came and checked in on the project. The Manatee Technical College Director, Doug Wagner, stayed late to assist in filling a few Kindergarten Readiness Bags. Because of the large space and the ability to leave the assembly lines up, the volunteers were able to show up and begin the work as soon as they arrived. The 3,400 Kindergarten Readiness Bags were assembled in four days, and distribution happened over a three-day period.
Our gratitude goes out to Jim Henry for presenting his dream to the Sarasota Rotary Club, to the Rotary Club of Sarasota County for helping that dream become a reality through funding and their generous donation of time, Manatee Technical College for the use of their facilities for three weeks, and the amazing 134 volunteers that spent their time preparing the bags.
Just think, a brief comment turned into an incredible accomplishment of 3,400 incoming kindergartners receiving educational materials to prepare them for their first year of school.