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Students line up for book bag giveaway

Zamaria McCall (left) and Zari Brown (right) accept book bags from volunteers Karen Owens and Lillian Herbert. The City of Greenville, in partnership with the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Butler County Retired Teachers Association, passed out 500 book bags on Saturday. (Advocate Staff/Patty Vaughan)

Before most people had their morning coffee on Saturday, a line had already begun to form at the Greenville YMCA.

Students across Butler County were invited to come and accept one of 500 book bags full of school supplies being given away by the City of Greenville in partnership with the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Butler County Retired Teacher’s Association.

Butler County School’s Superintendent Darren Douthitt was one of the volunteers in attendance.

“I got here about five (minutes) to 8 a.m. and seeing the line, it made me really understand that there are a lot of families who lack some of the essentials for starting school,” Douthitt said. “It sent a message to me that we need to find a mechanism, and I don’t know what it would take, but to hear from the parents about their needs well in advance so we can try to meet their needs.”

The City was able to raise about $7,000 to hand out the 500 book bags that were all packed by Walmart.

Greenville’s Mayor Dexter McLendon was pleased with the turnout from the event.

“Today has been unbelievable,” McLendon said. “It has been exactly what I expected.”

About 300 book bags had been given away in 30 minutes, and McLendon wanted to express his hope that next year every person who shows up would receive a book bag.

“It’s tough times for people,” McLendon said. “You get to see just what the need is and the highlight is seeing these kids walk out with a backpack on their back and smiling from ear to ear. This is something I would like to do every year. Next year, we’re going to have more book bags and we’ll have to raise more money.”

Douthitt believes Saturday’s event will have a positive impact on the upcoming school year.

“Normally, when you’re beginning a school year, whether you’re a teacher, student or parent, no matter who you are, the way you begin has a whole lot to do with how you finish,” he said.