Tanya Scott-Pilcher is one of the 15 volunteer coordinators responsible for putting together the Ready Set Go! Back to School expo that supplies a minimum of 5,000 children with free school supplies each year.
She explains the effort began 10 years ago during the economic recession.
“We had all these people and parents in our community really struggling to get their children school supplies and uniforms,” she says. “We thought, ‘How can we help?’
“We noticed a lot of churches and local organizations trying to put together back-to-school events, so we decided to come together to put on one big event where we give away supplies and also help connect people to different programs and churches in the area ... We know that if parents are aware of different church programs and after-school programs, these kids will flourish.”
She admits that every year they get bigger, but she says, “It truly takes a village ... We can’t do it without everyone’s support and sponsorships.”
The 10th annual Ready Set Go! Back to School expo takes place from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Savannah Civic Center. Admission is free and the event features school supply giveaways, free haircuts, free eye exams, free dental exams, vendors, valuable information and resources for families, school information and family-friendly entertainment and games.
And while everything is free, Scott-Pilcher adds that parents must have their child with them to receive the free school supplies. “We encourage families to come to the event together because there are important resources for both the children and the parents.”
She also says volunteers are always needed, since they try to serve as many families as possible year-round, not just at the expo.
“We get calls year-round. We got a lot of calls after the past two storms that came through here. If we have it, we fill that need. We don’t like to say no.”
Scott-Pilcher's group says they want to provide more than just supplies for students — they also want to get to a place where they can set up a free store for teachers to stop by and get supplies.
“We did a giveaway this past year in four schools and gave teachers some supplies we had left over. The response was unbelievable! You would have thought they were children on Christmas morning,” she says. “... If we had more sponsorships and volunteers, we could do more ... We could also give students those bigger ticket items like calculators.”
She says a new sponsorship this year is making it possible to give away 1,500 backpacks — something they have never done before.
“We can always use extra hands the last two or three days before the expo,” she says. “We need people to help us pack the supplies and then get them over to the civic center.
“Right now, we help a minimum of 5,000 students each year. If we had more support, we could help every child in Chatham County. Just imagine that.”
To volunteer, donate supplies or make a monetary donation, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Community service credits are also available to student volunteers.