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Biker group fills up book bags for students in need
Families receive free school supplies, clothes at charity giveaway
07222018 SCHOOL 4
Madalyn Flaherty, left, is handed backpacks for her kids from Melissa Whitten, a prospective member of Soldiers of Truth, during a distribution event in Gainesville, Saturday, July 21, 2018, at the Soldiers of Truth clubhouse. - photo by David Barnes

Hundreds of families showed up at the Soldiers of Truth clubhouse to get free school supplies on Saturday, July 21 — more than the biker ministry and Dorcas Place, who partnered with Soldiers of Truth, ever anticipated.

Members of the biker ministry ended up going to Walgreens for more supplies after a line formed at 10 a.m., two hours before the event was supposed to start. But the members didn’t have a problem with it. They happily started giving out supplies they bought while offering a hot lunch fresh off the grill.

“We feel like that’s what God’s told us to do,” said Lisa Dishman, member of Soldiers of Truth. “We do it because we want to help folks, and we don’t expect anything in return.”

07222018 SCHOOL 5
Jasmin Martin, center, is handed the last bag of groceries from a distribution event from Chris Whitten, a prospective member of Soldiers of Truth, in Gainesville, Saturday, July 21, 2018. The event, which was originally scheduled to begin at noon, started at 10 a.m. because so many people arrived beforehand. Martin received the last bag of groceries at 12:40 p.m. - photo by David Barnes
She said she enjoys helping the community and truly wants to because she “can’t imagine children doing without.” This is at least the 10th year the ministry has given out supplies.

The line stretched to the street through most of the day as children waited. Each child received five pieces of clothing, a book bag, hygiene products like shampoo and soap, a bag of groceries and a toy.

Clermont resident Madalynn Flaherty was there with her sons ages 6 and 7. It was the first time they had ever been to a free school supplies event and Flaherty said she was thankful for it.

“It means a lot to me that the community can help out with supplies and clothes,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty said she doesn’t have a job right now and is taking care of her father who suffered from a stroke, so having the school supplies, clothes and groceries provided was appreciated.

Dorcas Place is an organization that helps families in need by providing clothes and hygiene products. Beronica Nash is in charge and said Saturday’s crowd was the biggest turnout she’s seen.

“I do this because I feel like there’s a need,” Nash said.

She said she’s been taking part in similar events for as long as she can remember. Nash said when she was in high school she would take children’s names off of the “angel tree,” a Christmas tree in the mall with names of children who need gifts. Depending on how much money she had, she would buy presents for a couple children.

Growing up with her grandmother taught her everybody needs a little help sometimes.

“I can remember her getting help from a place like the Salvation Army during Christmas time,” Nash said. “So I feel like, ‘Why not give back?’”

Another mother at the event, Maria Martinez, was there with her seven children, all under age 10. Her son, Manie, said his favorite part was the bag of hygiene items, which included a toothbrush. He’s now excited to go to school.

“It’s a lot of sacrifice they do for a lot of people without them thinking about themselves,” Maria Martinez said. “Just giving it out, it’s so nice. It’s helpful, especially when you have a lot of children and you don’t have a lot of money or resources to get them things they need at school.”

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