“Those who have been rescued, make the best rescuers.” – Isreal Houghton
By Serena Wiliams
Humbling. Sobering. Awesome. Powerful. Nothing short of a miracle.
These are a few words that have repeatedly been used within the past few days to describe the modern-day miracle that took place on Saturday, Aug. 6, when Rock Hill Schools hosted its Back to Basics, Back to School, School Supply and Shoes of Hope distribution event at the Flexible Learning Center.
More than 1,500 children of all ages, races, socio-economic backgrounds were invited with their families to the event. They were cared for and loved on by 350 of the most amazing volunteers, invited to have their feet washed by a safe and caring adult, provided with a brand-new pair of socks and shoes, given a light snack of crackers and bottled water and offered an opportunity to choose their new book bag, most of which were stuffed with required school supplies. The excitement, spirit of humility, and sincere gratitude expressed by our children, parents, and caregivers are unforgettable.
Many parents and grandparents stood in line with looks of desperation and left with tears of joy while thanking us for the help. I will never forget the little girl wiggling her toes in her new hot pink shoes and with a big toothless grin saying, “My toes don’t hurt in these shoes anymore!” One little boy sat down with a teacher and said, “I don’t want you touching me.” After the teacher backed away, gently talking to him for a few minutes, he leaned down to take off his shoes, put his feet in the water to have them washed, and was presented with his new shoes. The bright-eyed little boy at the kindergarten bookbag station jumped up and down while pointing to a Cars 2 bookbag saying, “Please can I have that one!” was great to observe. The many children running away from the event with giggles and grins about their start to school was very special.
Another miracle, as I call it, because of each and every one of you. It is so honorable to live, work, and raise our family in a community where its residents do whatever we can to serve humanity. If there is an identified need, we join forces and somehow, someway, find a solution.
This year, I coordinated the district’s school supply event with Samaritans Feet International through its Back to Basics and Shoes of Hope Initiative and partnered with the York Christian Chamber for assistance with fundraising and volunteer recruitment. Because of our collective effort, volunteers were provided with a unique opportunity on Saturday to connect with children who needed their love and encouragement. I sincerely thank the York Christian Chamber’s generous allocation of $3,000 that was raised through their fundraising efforts for Rock Hill’s Shoes of Hope event.
Rock Hill, you never cease to amaze me. With just three weeks left before the event, we asked the media to spread the word about our urgent needs for our children and provided everyone in the community with an opportunity to invest through Back to Basics 2011. The Herald’s reporters wrote two great stories and WRHI graciously invited me in for four opportunities to share on “Palmetto Mornings” and “Straight Talk.” We asked businesses, civic groups, churches, and individuals for monetary sponsorships, donations of book bags, school supplies, help with promotions, and for your most precious investment of time.
The event changed me, too, and helped me treasure and appreciate all the people in my life who have offered a helping hand. You see, at some point in our lives, we all need to be rescued for a chance at success. Maybe as a child, we need someone to believe in us, speak positively in our lives, and dare us to dream. Maybe we’ve been provided with food by a kind citizen, church, or neighbor who didn’t ask questions, judge or expect anything in return. Maybe as adults, we found ourselves in unexpected financial crisis, and quietly, secretly being helped so we could quickly recover. Our volunteers and the community gave back Saturday in an amazing way to hurting families who needed our help.
Thank you to every business, church, individual and group that donated, volunteered, forwarded emails, posted messages on Facebook, tweeted about the urgent needs, shared through church bulletins, volunteered, planned and attended the event. Thank you for donating over $15,000 to the RHSD Foundation for this initiative and giving thousands of items for school supplies and Shoes of Hope Rock Hill. This summer, this community stepped up in a big way. Thank you for planting seeds of hope, encouragement, love and greatness at the start of this amazing school year.
Serena Williams is the coordinator of community services for the Rock Hill School District.