“We had a family here Wednesday morning at 5:30 a.m., ready to wait until Saturday,” said Krystle Thompson, coordinator of Southwire’s Project GIFT, which sets up the event. “We had to tell them to go home because of the weather and that we would recognize them Saturday.”
The family was there so early, Thompson said, because the first family in line receives a $250 voucher for school supplies. But families don’t have to be first in line to get free stuff.
Southwire volunteers have prepared 5,250 bags for Saturday’s event, running from 9 a.m. until noon in the Southwire parking lot. Thompson said last year’s event volunteers prepared 5,200 bags, but this year, they had to bump the number up.
“We are hoping to outdo ourselves every year,” said Thompson. “We started out very small. This is our eighth year doing this, and it’s grown every year.”
Thompson said coordinators of annual events sometimes run into problems with participation as the events “age.” She said the Back to School fair is different.
“Usually with annual events like this at this point in their run, things start to die down,” she said. “But we’ve grown, and this year will be the biggest yet.”
Southwire spokesman Gary Leftwich said Southwire feels a responsibility to give back to the Carrollton community for what it has done in making it a successful company.
“We’ve done a lot of things against the odds, and a large part of that is because of the Carroll County community,” he said.
Leftwich said the event relies on more business than just Southwire, however.
“We have a group of partners that we’ve built relationships with coming together to help the members of the community,” Leftwich said.
West Georgia Technical College is the presenting sponsor for the event, and Vice President of Institutional Advancement Dawn Cook said the event has become important to the college.
“We’ve participated in this event the last several years because we’re always looking to find ways for students to be successful,” Cook said. “WGTC believes education is key to a successful community.”
Cook said the college believes in lifelong learning, another reason for its sponsorship.
“Whether you’re 13, 30 or 80, education is important,” she said. “Whether students further their education (at WGTC) or somewhere else, we want them to continuing learning to make sure we have an educated work force that can compete globally.”
WGTC donated, as it did last year, to the event’s annual “My Favorite Teacher” contest.
Thompson said students who attend will be able to write down their favorite teacher’s name, and a name will be selected at random at the end of the event. The name selected will win $1,500 for his or her classroom.
The bags students will receive come in two categories, for students in kindergarten through third grade and for students from fourth to 12th grades.
The younger students’ bags will include pencils, crayons, a ruler, an eraser, hand sanitizer, paper, glue and scissors. The older students will get pencils, index cards, highlighters, a notebook, a ruler, tab dividers, paper and hand sanitizer in their bags.
The supplies are purchased through Carrollton Office Equipment with donations from sponsors, Thompson said. Ninety Southwire employees and family members have signed up to volunteer for the event.
One aspect of this year’s event that’s different from years past is the number of satellite locations that are holding similar events.
“We’ve got 13 different locations, offices and plants across the nation that are doing a back-to-school event like this sometime this summer,” she said. “And we’re having one in Mexico, too.”