Birmingham club donates to PCES
PHIL CAMPBELL – Most of the immediate needs in the tornado-stricken areas of Franklin County have been taken care of by generous people from around the world, but a ladies group from Birmingham wants to make sure some future needs are taken care of as well.
Fran Stainback and Brenda Gustin with the Highland Lakes Women’s Club recently met with Phil Campbell Elementary School’s principal, Jackie Ergle, to discuss the club’s upcoming donation of 464 backpacks filled with school supplies for the coming school year – one backpack for each child at the school.
The mission, dubbed as “‘Phil’ a Backpack,” started out as Gustin’s idea before she was even a part of the Highland Lakes Women’s Club. She had several friends who were participating in the adopt-a-family program and, through her research into this program, she formed a friendship with Stainback, who served as the president of the Highland Lakes Women’s Club.
“Phil Campbell had a special place in my heart because my dad is a minister at Cherry Hill Baptist Church in Russellville,” Gustin said. “I heard about the elementary school and wanted to be able to do something for those children because I started thinking about what would happen when all the support and volunteer work dies down. I thought there would still be needs when the kids started back to school in August, so that was really the motivation.”
Gustin got in touch with Stainback, who works as a secretary at Berry Middle School, to see if she would be interested in helping. Gustin thought Stainback’s background working in the schools would be beneficial for the project she had in mind.
“I sent an e-mail to Fran about the project and we met that same evening to discuss it,” Gustin said. “Our friendship just grew from there and we got the whole club involved in our mission.”
Gustin said they immediately started contacting different businesses to see if they wanted to donate items or money towards their ambitious goal of filling 464 backpacks with school supplies.
“We have really received an outpouring of support from people who genuinely want to help these kids,” Gustin said. “The Wal-Mart located on 280 donated all 464 backpacks that we needed for each student and they worked with us on other school supplies. The man who runs Kane Steel and Iron in Birmingham really took the mission to heart and contacted his customers and vendors about helping us out, which got us donations from as far as Ohio and Texas. The support has just been tremendous.”
Thanks to all this support, the Highland Lakes Women’s Club reached their goal of having enough school supplies to fill all 464 backpacks and they will “Phil” the backpacks this Tuesday at Mt. Laurel Elementary School in Birmingham from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
“If people would like to help us with out mission, they can bring their child and a $25 donation will let them fill the book bag with the supplies and write a special message to send to that child, which will be a rewarding experience,” Gustin said. “We will also have Spain Park football players who are coming to help pack the bags that day.”
When Stainback and Gustin met with PCES Principal Jackie Ergle at her school two weeks ago, Ergle couldn’t believe all these women were doing for children they had never even met.
“This will mean so much to our parents, most of which already have enough to worry with all the storm damage without having to worry about getting school supplies ready,” Ergle said. “This will help them out tremendously.”
Ergle said the gesture will also mean a lot to the school children who lost two classmates and a teacher in the April 27 tornado.
“Many kids don’t walk in and have what they need on that first day, and that would have especially been the case this year with many of them losing so much,” Ergle said. “Now they’ll be getting backpacks and supplies that are brand new.
“It’s amazing these women have taken on this mission for not one family but an entire school. We are just so grateful and thankful. It’s the perfect demonstration of our school’s motto: ‘Hand in hand, together we can.’”
Stainback said she hopes their labor of love will touch the children and turn into an experience they will always remember when they see someone else in need.
“We want these children to know we care about them even though we don’t know them personally,” Stainback said. “Hopefully this will be a real character lesson for them where they will learn to help others when they need it one day.”