For Sharlia Cotton, a single parent, and Veronica Lyons, a mother of six, a school supplies giveaway Saturday offered a little relief from the expense of sending their children back to school.
The friends arrived early for the Communitywide PTA and Back to School Kickoff at the Big Lots parking lot on Peach Orchard Road.
Cotton is a full-time student who runs a post-construction cleaning business. She said business has been extremely slow the past two months, so she’s visiting school supply giveaways to get things her son, Kevon Cotton, needs when he starts eighth grade at Langford Middle School on Monday.
“Even if I buy stuff, it runs out throughout the year, so it always helps to have extra,” she said.
Lyons and her family are still reeling from losing their home in a storm in 2011.
Then, at the end of the last school year, the head gasket blew out in the family’s van, leaving them without a vehicle and Lyons limited to whatever part-time work she can find within walking distance. Her husband rides a bicycle from downtown to Carolina Ale House, where he is a cook, she said.
“We do what we can,” she said.
Though Lyons and Cotton arrived a half-hour early, the line was already beginning to wrap around Fifth Third Bank.
“We knew we were (pretty far) back when they stopped passing out chocolate with the family in front of us,” Lyons said.
Parents and their children were directed to tables according to grade, where volunteers filled plastic bags with notebooks, paper, pencils, rulers, pencil boxes, crayons, and other supplies.
Booths offered information on individual PTA programs, Amerigroup and Peach State Health Insurance. The Sisters Only Club passed out hot dogs, chips and ice cream, and children visited face-painting booths and inflatables.
Monique Braswell, the president of the Richmond County Council of PTAs, said the event was running smoothly and there were no issues.
“You don’t see kids running around, out of order. You don’t see any of that,” she said.
After the Lyons children received their supplies and enjoyed their hot dogs, their mother began directing them toward the children’s activities. She said she was enjoying the event and appreciated the supplies.
“Every little bit helps,” she said.