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Christmas in August brings school supplies to Lyman Hall Elementary
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Village at Deaton Creek resident Mary Anderson carries donated school supplies into Lyman Hall Elementary in Gainesville on Wednesday. Residents of Village at Deaton Creek pulled up with cars full of collected supplies to donate to Lyman Hall teachers. - photo by David Barnes

Christmas came in early August for teachers at Lyman Hall Elementary School as they gathered in the media center Wednesday afternoon to pick up school supplies donated by residents of Village at Deaton Creek in South Hall.

As first-year teachers, Ashton McWhirter and Jessica Mobley were the first allowed to go through and selected the supplies they needed for their classroom. They were followed by teachers in their first year at Lyman Hall, then those who had moved to a different grade level and finally, the rest of the teachers were able to receive supplies.

“It means a lot because I don’t think people realize how much the cost adds up,” said McWhirter, who will teach fifth grade after student-teaching at Lyman Hall last year. “I have 18 kids in my class and some of them show up with nothing and I have to fill in that void with the things that they need. So, it’s so helpful to have this especially because I don’t get paid until the end of August. It’s so nice to have that extra support.”

Mobley, a special education teacher, called the gift from the school’s partners at Deaton Creek “absolutely wonderful.”

“I wasn’t even thinking about the things that I needed,” she said. “So I walked in and I saw glue sticks and scissors and finally it was like, ‘Oh my goodness! I don’t have any of this stuff. It was really, really nice to be supported by the community and have them bring that in to us.”

Joan Humphries, who has lived at Village at Deaton Creek for 11 years, is the facilitator for the partnership for the community which has about 1,250 homes. A retired elementary school principal, Humphries and other Deaton Creek residents brought school supplies and a check for $1,600 to the school, which she said was the largest gift the community has given to the school to date. She said the partnership now includes volunteers from the residential community, but the school supply drive was “how we started” the partnership eight years ago.

“At the time it had the highest poverty concentration, students who were below the poverty line, of any of the schools in the district and that presented a particular kind of challenge,” Humphries said. “Every year it’s grown. It’s all for supplies that they don’t have money in their budgets to do any other way. We encourage our community. They can go buy the supplies and bring them and there’s a list that they have to go by. Monetary donations are welcome and needed as well.”

She said the group that started the school supply drive began with 20 residents.

“It can only be described as a loosely organized group,” Humphries said. “We communicate by email and our community magazine which comes out monthly. This year, we have a daily electronic newsletter. Those of us who have trouble remembering things have many opportunities to remember that it’s time to collect the school supplies.”

Dolores Hutcheson, a paraprofessional at the school, has been the school’s liaison in the partnership.

“I love it,” Hutcheson said. “Our teachers in the past, they’ll say this is Christmas in July. They don’t get this at other times in the year. It helps the teachers so much because instead of them going out and buying stuff, these people just volunteer their money.”

Principal Robert Wilson, in his sixth year at Lyman Hall, said Deaton Creek residents have “really taken ownership of the partnership.”

“They bring school supplies and it helps our teachers and students because we’re a high poverty school,” he said. “They have volunteers who come weekly to help in our media center, help in our classrooms.”