By 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, the parking lot of Chick-fil-A in Ellijay was full and a line of cars wrapped arm-like around the building, either in line for drive-thru service or to wait for an available parking space. Inside, customers placed binders, packs of pens, and paper in the wicker donation basket and then stood in line before the counter for their coupon. As customers filed in during lunchtime, more donations were received, breaching the brim of the basket. The crowd was a cross-section of the community, where teenagers, retirees, and young families all seem to pitch in to help those in need. The cause for this charitable coming-together was the community’s need for school supplies.
Operator of Ellijay’s Chick-fil-A restaurant Wayne Grier organized and sponsored the school supply drive on Saturday to help students who could not afford school supplies for the new school year. The school supply drive worked like this: All customers donating school supplies received a coupon for a free chicken sandwich, while the donated supplies would go to students who can’t afford them.
Grier said that after the drive, he will contact the Gilmer County Board of Education and the Board will distribute the supplies to the schools with students who need them most. When asked what inspired the charitable event, Grier said he just wanted to do something for the community, because some kids can’t afford school supplies. Anyone who has been in the stores lately would agree that supplies are getting expensive and no one would agree more than parents with school-aged children.
In these first weeks of school, parents scramble to get school supplies for their children and, amid current economic woes the task becomes more of a challenge than in years past. Parents are faced with lower wages and higher product prices. Each school, from elementary all the way to high school, post supply lists on the school website, so parents can help their children get the required supplies for the year. Lists for fourth graders sometimes have 9 or 10 items, ranging for a total cost of anywhere from 30 to 40 dollars. And, of course, with each ascending grade level, the list tends to get longer and more expensive. For example, high school students are required to buy supplies for at least five subjects and bare minimum each subject requires a one inch binder with filler paper. Binders this size can range from 1 to 5 dollars; Filler paper costs about 2 dollars, so, multiply an average of 4 dollars for each class by 5 subjects. That’s twenty dollars in binders alone, which doesn’t include more technical purchases like flash drives, a common requirement these days. Grier’s event is intended to take the financial edge off and reduce the worries some families with economic challenges are now facing.
The event ran all day Saturday, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. At 8 o’clock the restaurant was slow and saw only a few donations. But as lunch time came around, more and more people brought in their donations and as the donation basket started to fill up, the true sense of community seemed to fill the place.
With The New York Says Thank You (NYSTY) Project for The Build an Ark Foundation a week behind us, it seems that Wayne Grier’s donation drive Saturday has harnessed the influence of NYSTY, the spirit of 912, and the ever-enduring philosophy of “Pay it Forward.” Grier said that Chick-fil-A will hold another similar drive in a few weeks. The date for the upcoming charity event has yet to be determined, but Grier noted that he didn’t want to wait too long, indicating that he wanted to give students time to effectively use the donated school supplies.