Back to School Bash equips hundreds of kids for learning

MOORE HAVEN — Florida Community Health Centers (FCHC) and the United Way partnered up with dozens of community supporters to host the annual Moore Haven Back to School Bash. It took place from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, at the Doyle Conner Building, 900 U.S. 27, Moore Haven.

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
Lisa Sands of the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee (left), and Traci Thomas, chief of the Florida Community Health Center in Moore Haven, welcomed hundreds of schoolchildren and their families to the Back to School Bash 2019-20 on Wednesday, Aug. 7, at the Doyle Conner Building in Moore Haven.

Clinic Administrative Director Traci Thomas said in this, their seventh year of having the fair, “so far we’ve given out over 300 backpacks today.” That was at 5:15 p.m. or so, when the large meeting room still was packed with families making the rounds of all the tables.

She hastened to credit the United Way, Healthier Hendry Glades Task Force and the Glades Education Foundation before calling on Lisa Sands, the United Way’s Hendry/Glades coordinator who was with her at the welcome booth, up to help her remember more of their backers and helpers. She also cited the Glades County Department of Health office.

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
These two young ladies, Lizbeth Rico (left) and Jakhia Smith, happily stocked up on items to help keep their pearly whites healthy.

While chatting, no one could miss the festive aroma wafting through the room. “Oh yes,” said Ms. Thomas, “we have plenty of popcorn, too. Help yourself.”

Ms. Sands started with her colleague at the FCHC and added: “We have 48 community partners, some United Way partner agencies, some with the FCHC, some county officials. We’ve got a couple of businesses — Ricky’s Barber Shop and Wolff’s Lawn Machines (among them). We have elected officials; Aletris Farnam (elections supervisor) and Lori Ward (property appraiser) are represented.”

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
Every child left with a backpack full or armfuls of supplies to start off their 2019-2020 school year.

Just then, County Commission Chairman Tim Stanley waved from his post of shaking hands and sending the happy children on their way off to school.

There was a large contingent of Glades County Sheriff’s Office personnel present greeting the kids and giving out things, plus their costumed mascot was distributing free hugs to any kid who wanted one. Many tables were set up by church groups in the area, also distributing needed supplies.

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
From the smallest tykes to the tallest ones, there were essential items for everyone.

“We start planning before school gets out,” said Ms. Sands. “It takes that long to put it together.” So “we’ll start again in about April…” Ms. Thomas added.

You can visit Ms. Thomas to learn about joining in the effort for 2020 in her office at 1021 Health Park Drive, Moore Haven; call her at 863-946-0405, ext. 2800; or email

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