A little idea grows huge

Published 10:04 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2016

This time of year, back-to-school giveaways seem to dominate the local news. Backpacks full of notebooks, pens, pencils, glue and other school supplies are collected and distributed by churches, community organizations and even businesses around the area, and there never seem to be quite enough to go around.

But one local giveaway is unique in its personal nature.

Six years ago, Steve and Patricia Watson started an annual school supply distribution in their backyard on Cullodan Street and Van Buren Avenue. Using his own paycheck to fund the drive, Steve Watson collected supplies for his grandchildren and their friends that first year, gathering enough for about 60 kids. He gave them away during an end-of-summer cookout.

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Since that time, the event has grown to include neighborhood children, ballooning to about 100 children on its fifth anniversary last year.

As the old saying goes, success breeds success.

When Planters Peanuts, Watson’s employer, learned of his efforts, company officials asked to help. Kraft Heinz, the parent company of Planters, decided to sponsor this year’s event. They donated money for more food, more school supplies, more backpacks and more fun.

In fact, the event was so big this year that it had to be held at Planters Park on Saturday. The extra space allowed the Watsons to make the event even bigger than they might have imagined. The Planters NUTmobile and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile were both brought to the site to help attract interest, and there were bounce houses, food and football to keep everyone entertained.

Steve Watson’s little idea for giving away school supplies was transformed into a big community party, and many youngsters who might not otherwise have been able to do so will be headed to school this year ready to do the work that’s ahead of them.

Thanks to him and to Planters for their contributions to the community. And thanks to all the organizations that are working to help kids be ready for classes on Tuesday.