GRANITEVILLE — The girl in the striped dress was so excited about getting a free backpack and school supplies that she took only a couple of small bites out of her hamburger before putting it back down on her plate.
Instead of eating, the tiny blonde flipped through the pages of a book of nursery rhymes. She also took the top off of a glue stick and examined a ruler.
“My name is Judy Wells,” she said. “It's spelled J-u-d-y W-e-l-l-s.”
Wells, who will be 6 years old on Tuesday, was one of the many youngsters who showed up at the Aiken County Recreation Center on Jefferson Davis Highway on Sunday afternoon to pick up the school tools that they needed. They also got to spin a wheel to win prizes and munch on hotdogs and hamburgers.
The Aiken County Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department teamed up with Molina Healthcare and the Serenity Charity Club of Hephzibah, Georgia, to conduct the giveaway.
Wells' mother, Angel Wells, was thankful for the assistance to get her daughter ready for today's first day of school in Aiken County. Judy is entering the first grade at Jefferson Elementary School in Warrenville.
“This helps me out a lot because I'm disabled and I can't work,” Wells said. “I can't afford any of it. Getting a backpack is especially wonderful. The cheapest one that I saw this year was $20, and that is outrageous for me.”
Jennifer Milenkevich, who brought her children Jayden, 9, and Kiya, 8, to the giveaway, was also grateful.
“Nothing is cheap anymore,” she said. “Everything costs a lot of money these days.”
Molina Healthcare donated 300 backpacks with kits of school supplies inside for the giveaway.
“We want the kids to have all the tools they need to make them successful,” said Rafael Santiago, a community engagement coordinator with Molina. “We are so happy to be able to serve this community.”
The Serenity Charity Club provided a variety of items, including spiral ring notebooks, crayons, notebook paper and folders.
“We decided to branch out and come to this area; my family is from here,” said Pam Perry, who is the club's president.
Last year, the club offered a Christmas assistance program at the recreation center and in the spring, the organization held an Easter egg hunt at Harrison-Caver Park in Clearwater.
Summing up the reason for Sunday's event, Tandra Cooks, who is the recreation supervisor for the center, said, “We just wanted to make sure that the children had what they needed to make a fresh start, so they wouldn't be stressed out.”
On Saturday, 100 backpacks and school supply kits donated by Molina Healthcare will be given away on a first come, first served basis beginning at 1 p.m. at Runs Missionary Baptist Church in Beech Island. The church is located at 717 Williston Road.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Judy Wells, accompanied by her mother, Angel Wells, picks up a backpack and school supplies at the Aiken County Recreation Center on Jefferson Davis Highway in Granitieville on Sunday. The Aiken County Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department teamed with Molina Healthcare and the Serenity Charity Club of Hephzibah, Georgia, to hold the giveaway.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Judy Wells, left, Jayden Milenkevich and Makayla Chavous spend some time together during a backpack and school supplies giveaway at the Aiken County Recreation Center on Jefferson Davis Highway in Graniteville on Sunday.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Alma Ormond, left, hands a spiral ring notebook to Jaliyah Satterwhite on Sunday at the Aiken County Recreation Center on Jefferson Davis Highway in Graniteville.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Judy Wells, left, gets some school supplies from Tandra Cooks at the Aiken County Recreation Center on Jefferson Davis Highway in Graniteville on Sunday.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Judy Wells shows some of the school supplies she received at the Aiken County Recreation Center on Jefferson Davis Highway in Graniteville on Sunday.×
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