Porters gives back to students

Speaker is state Rep. Clovis Watson

Beverly King, left, helps her 6-year-old grandson, Jeremiah King, get a backpack with school supplies from Asher Lyons, second from right, and his dad, Anthony Lyons, executive director of the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency.

CLEVELAND TINKER/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 3:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 3:53 p.m.

The Porters Community Neighborhood Organization and its partners celebrated the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year with a back-to-school rally that featured a backpack giveaway and words of encouragement from Florida Rep. Clovis Watson Jr.

More than 100 backpacks filled with school supplies were given away at the event held Saturday at the Porters Community Center near downtown Gainesville.

With old-school soul and R&B songs being played by the DJ, such as "Say It Loud" by the late James Brown, people of all ages with ties to the Porters community enjoyed mingling with each other, food and good weather. The children attending the event spent most of their time playing basketball, getting their faces painted and getting acquainted with two horses from the Gainesville Police Department mounted patrol unit.

The backpacks were given away after a hot meal of grilled chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs was served to everyone. The backpacks were distributed by staff from the city of Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency, but Gigi Simmons, president of the Porters Community Neighborhood Organization, said many in the community contributed to the success of the event.

"There are just too many names to recognize right now, but they all should know how grateful we are, and we will be surely thanking them personally very soon," said Simmons, a lifelong resident of Porters. "There are so many people responsible for this being a successful event each of the past several years we have done this."

Beverly King was one of the first in line to get backpacks for her grandchildren, 6-year-old Jeremiah King, a first-grader at J.J. Finley Elementary School, and 15-year-old Breanna King, an 11th-grader at Gainesville High School.

"This really means a lot to me and my grandkids and all of the kids whose parents are not able to give them backpacks," King said. "I really appreciate the community and all of the organizations who have gotten together to make this happen for the children."

Paula Reed, who also attended the event with some of her grandchildren, said the event met the needs of a lot of people, including her 13-year-old granddaughter, Gabrielle Graham, an eighth-grader at Kanapaha Middle School.

"This is good for the neighborhood and it is in a safe environment for the kids and adults to fellowship together on one accord," Reed said. "They do this year every year, and I love it."

Watson, D-Alachua, told the more than 100 school-aged children attending the event that he, too, came from humble beginnings. He said although he was born in poverty, he did not let that dictate how he was going to live his life.

Watson said it was because of the efforts of the older people living in his community who made him realize the importance of doing the right thing and getting a good education. He also told the children to be thankful for the elders in their community who are doing the same for them.

"I say to you young people, stay involved and get involved in the community," Watson said.

In the wake of the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white police officer, Watson, a former city of Alachua police officer, encouraged the teens to respect law enforcement officers.

"If you feel you are not being treated right, go to the appropriate, responsible adult in your life to get something done about it," Watson said.

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