As students prepare to embark on a new school year this week, local organizations took some time on Saturday to give a hand up to those in need of supplies, face masks, fresh cuts and more.
“This is the ‘Unified Riderz’ second annual back to school drive,” said Sonya Johnson Wilks, president of the trail riding club.
“It’s giving back to the community,” she said, sharing the group is more than just engaging in trail rides and parties.
The back-to-school drive, which was held at the former Mama Tina’s restaurant on the Pinecrest plaza, is one of the group’s community outreach programs that help those in need.
On Saturday, the Unified Riderz teamed up with hairstylist Shontaria James of “Tia Braids Plus More” and barber, Josh Harrison, to bless 20 deserving youth — 10 boys and 10 girls — with free hairstyles and free haircuts. The winners were picked from a drawing the group conducted on Facebook.
Parents said they appreciated the gesture immensely.
“I think it is real nice how they’re helping out the community for the kids,” said parent, Shawn Pentecost.
Pentecost’s 7-year-old daughter, Tyrheanna Robinson felt like a princess with her long braided tresses, adorned with white beads.
“She feels real pretty because she just keeps flipping these braids,” Pentecost teased.
Pentecost’s 9-year-old son, Tyravian Robinson, was also all smiles with his new haircut.
Amanda Merritt was also grateful that her 4-year-old son, Tristan, was a lucky winner for a free haircut.
“I’m just thankful,” Merritt said as she watched Harrison give her preschooler a new fade.
“I have four kids, so it really helps me out a lot,” Merritt said of the back-to-school drive.
Harrison said he volunteered his services because he just loves to help.
“I just love to cut; I just love to help out,” said Harrison.
The Unified Riderz also gave away free school supplies, backpacks, goodie bags and Disney-themed super hero face masks.
Wilks said they wanted to make sure that the children have a safe school year amid the pandemic. The group also made sure that safety measures were taken at Saturday’s event by checking temperatures, wearing face masks and providing hand sanitizer.
“We wish everyone well during this pandemic,” Wilks said. “Be safe and be blessed.”
At another back-to-school drive, held Saturday at Smith Park in Marshall, the Heavy Hitterz motorcycle club, Kings and Queens Community Center and Open Arms Foundation also offered free school supplies, hand sanitizer, faces masks, face shields and more as students prepare for a new school year in the uncertainty of COVID-19.
“With school starting up, we knew it was going to be some staying at home and some going to school,” said Candance Pierce with Open Arms Foundation.
She said they decided to make sure those going back to face-to-face instruction were equipped with what they needed to stay safe.
Shereka Newson with Kings & Queens Community Center said with the uncertainty, they knew the parents would need the help. The groups were happy to have served more than 70 youth Saturday, which included residents from East Texas Open Door.
“We’re going to do it every summer,” Newson said, noting this was their fifth annual event.
Newson and Pierce said they are very thankful to the Heavy Hitterz motorcycle club, which always supports the back-to-school drive effort as well as the collaboration’s Christmas charity.
“We’re very thankful for the Heavy Hitterz,” said Newson. “They always come through.”
Pierce also thanked Soul Palace for donating school supplies and more.