Mary Nelson’s 12th annual Youth Day Barbecue brought together volunteers and businesses to continue the tradition of working together to give away backpacks filled with school supplies to local youth.
The event gathered thousands of families for not only free supplies but entertainment, food and screenings donated by area organizations that see an opportunity for outreach and lending. The event was held Saturday, Aug. 17, at the corner of South Salina Street and Wood Avenue.
First Time Participants
First time volunteers Brandon Bentley and Lindsey Speicher stole sips of water during opportune moments as they gave out binders and notebooks to children as they came through the school supply line.
“I can’t complain. It’s nice to give back,” said Bentley who works with the mayor’s office.
Kevin Fallis, UPS Store owner, also a first-time volunteer greeted neighbors with a huge smile as he handed out UPS Store pens. He said his mission to give out 11,000 pens was his way to come out, show the community that his business is locally operated and be visible.
“I much prefer when things like this are done by people instead of big governments,” he said.
The experience also lends to young organizations that return and strive to do more.
“I was looking for somebody like Mary,” said Pat Renzulli from Saint Agatha Foundation. Renzulli is a returning participant who discovered the Youth Day Barbecue last year while Googling ways to connect with the community.
“I enjoyed it. It is an awesome event. This is our second year back,” said Sandra Holmes who works at Upstate and helps to coordinate dental screenings for children through LINKS.
While newer participants find a new connection, veteran participants increase their giving so much that other organizations benefit.
Peoples A.M.E Zion Church began their clothing drive in July and often collects so many clothes the rest are donated to area shelters such as the Barnabus Center or Salvation Army.
“We don’t bring anything back with us,” said volunteer Tyonna Johnson. “The point is to give it away so we give it all away.”
Volunteer Peter Polikarpenko from Parent Partnership Network multi-tasked reading to a young man while simultaneously navigating lines of children waiting on free books.
“We always attend community events with children,” he said.
Margo Marcus, a veteran at volunteering for the Youth Day Barbecue said she has only missed one year of volunteering as a result of her breast cancer.
As the long line of registrants dwindles before 4 p.m., families gather around the main stage to watch children performers from the Young and Talented dance ensemble perform.
Twelve-year-old veteran performer Akila Page says she enjoys the opportunity to perform for the Youth Day Barbecue.
“I come out here to watch these talented kids have fun,” said neighbor Victoria Harper. “They are why I always come out.”
Though Victoria and other neighbors noticed a decline in vendors and organizations at the barbecue, there was no shortage of children.
Security officer Mike Burke agreed that while there appeared to be less organizations present than in the past, there was a healthy crowd of children excited for backpacks, school supplies and the start of a new school year.
“It doesn’t take much to do something out of love,” he said.
Note: Mary Nelson told NewsChannel 9 that she has more than 2,000 backpacks left over. If anyone did not receive a backpack on Saturday, they can contact the Mary Nelson Youth Center, located at 2849 S Salina St. or by calling (315) 422-5690.
— Story and photos by Ruthnie Angrand, The Stand Community Correspondent