Community members honored for support to schools

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County School Board, at its Oct. 10 meeting, honored community organizations, churches and businesses that helped students and teachers prepare for the new school year.

“We are recognizing those who supported our schools during pre-plan, or getting our schools ready for the new school year,” said Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy.

Community organizations and businesses that helped students and teachers prepare for the new school year were honored at the Oct. 10, 2017 meeting of the Okeechobee County School Board. Left to right are Leah Suarez, representing First Methodist Church; Christina Bishop of Brennan Eye Care; and Linda Vaughn, Judith Mix and Laura Murray of Delta Kappa Gamma; with Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy.

Community businesses and organizations recognized for pre-plan week support included Brennan Eye Care, Delta Kappa Gamma Sorority, First United Methodist Church, Glades Electric Cooperative, MidFlorida Credit Union, Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce, Peace Lutheran Church, Raulerson Hospital and State Farm Insurance.

Back to School supporters recognized included Celebrate Youth, CPA Tax Solutions LLC, Firefighters and Paramedics of Okeechobee Local 2918, My Aunt’s House – The Closet, Oakview Baptist Church, Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue, Our Village, Publix, State Farm Insurance, United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties, and Zachry Industrial Inc.

On behalf of Brennan Eye Care, Dr. Christine Bishop said, “My father and I enjoy supporting the school system. I grew up in it and I was excited to come back and to give back.”

“Delta Kappa Gamma provided lunch, gifts and laughter for Project ONE, which stands for Okeechobee’s New Educators,” explained Mr. Kenworthy. “Any opportunity that is out there, these ladies step up,” he said.

Representing the chamber were Christine Bishop, Brian Melear, Paulette Wise and Mariah Parriott. At right is Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy.

Linda Vaughn said Delta Kappa Gamma is an international society that reaches out to educators.

Mr. Kenworthy said First United Methodist Church provided a luncheon for the new teachers, “and that is the one you don’t want to miss!”

“Glades Electric is no stranger to us, and any activity that we have, adult or student, Glades Electric is there to support us,” said Mr. Kenworthy. “It’s nice to see Glades Electric step up to the plate to support our seniors on scholarship night,” he continued. “We also appreciate the support during pre-plan week.”

“Glades Electric members make it a priority that we support education in all of the communities we serve,” said the cooperative’s director of business development, Paul McGehee.

Amy Daniel of MidFlorida, and Paul McGehee, Denise Whitehead and Angie Hodges of Glades Electric are pictured with Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy.

“MidFlorida does so much for us,” Mr. Kenworthy continued. “We couldn’t ask for a better partner.

“The chamber came in during pre-plan week to talk to the teachers and help them learn about the community,” said Mr. Kenworthy. He added that it was very helpful to the new teachers to have individuals and businesses share information about the local community “not only the businesses, but our culture.”

“The chamber is the focal point of the community where most visitors and new arrivals come for information,” said Paulette Wise. She said they were happy to welcome the new teachers to Okeechobee.

Mr. Kenworthy also thanked Peace Lutheran Church. “For many years, they have gone above and beyond with support of our new teachers,” he said. “They are motivated to help us and assist us in any way they can.”

“We were the first church that honored the new teachers,” said Gay Carlton. She said the church has participated in the pre-plan week activities for about 25 years. “I want to thank the business people that stepped up,” she said. “We had door prizes for every person there.

“We have a core group at the church; they always step up regardless of what we are doing at the church,” she said. “They do whatever they have to do to make everybody feel welcome.”

Raulerson Hospital was also honored by the school board. “They set up Apple stations at the Back to School rally,” said Mr. Kenworthy. “You couldn’t think of a better organization that supports students,” he said, noting the hospital’s support of career and technical programs and the scholarships given to future nurses.

Left to right are Jenny Pung, Raulerson Hospital marketing director; Gay Carlton, representing Peace Lutheran Church; Raulerson Hospital CEO Brian Melear; and Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy.

Hospital CEO Brian Melear said about 18 months ago, the hospital staff came up with a new mission statement: “We are Raulerson, founded on integrity, driven by quality and inspired by care.”

“Thank you for allowing us to be part of this community,” he said. “We will continue to work hard to earn that trust.”

Gretchen Robinson was also recognized for her support during pre-plan week. Mr. Kenworthy said the program to send food home with students was made possible starting through a grant by State Farm. The insurer also recently donated chairs and desks to the high school.

Big Lake Missions Outreach was honored at the last meeting for donating school supplies.

Also recognized was Celebrate Youth, which supplied 200 backpacks and supplies to Douglas Park Youth.

CPA Tax Solutions, represented by Paula Younger, Sandra Torres and Joanna Hoover, and My Aunt’s House, represented by Denise Whitehead, Judy Watts and Wendy Watts, were honored by Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy at the Oct. 10, 2017 school board meeting.

Mr. Kenworthy said CPA Tax Solutions helped Osceola Middle School prepare for the school year by donating new uniforms for the OMS volleyball team.

My Aunt’s House provided help with back-to-school clothing for families in need.

“Any student or family who needs clothing for their kids can go there and get clothes,” said Mr. Kenworthy. He added that Wendy Watt “probably has given more volunteer hours to the school district that anybody since I have been working here.”

Firefighters and Paramedics of Okeechobee County Local 2918 and Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue were honored for their volunteer work at a school supply collection drive. “They volunteered their time for three days collecting school supplies at Walmart,” said Mr. Kenworthy.

“Back-to-school supplies are an expense for our families. If you have multiple kids, you would be surprised how quickly the costs add up,” he said.

Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue Chief Ralph Franklin and Leah Suarez, representing Our Village Okeechobee, were presented with certificates of appreciation by Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy at the Oct. 10 school board meeting.

“Most of our employees were born and raised right here so it is our pleasure to give back,” said Fire/Rescue Chief Ralph Franklin.

Seacoast Bank was a big help with collecting school supplies, and also helping at other programs, said Mr. Kenworthy. “No matter where you look, you see the turquoise shirts.”

The bank has a collection area for customers to donate school supplies. Usually it starts with a big donation by customer Tim Prescott, the bank staff shared, and then donations start flowing in.

Oakview Baptist Church recently “adopted” South Elementary School and Osceola Middle School, said Mr. Kenworthy, “They sent volunteers to open house, and served breakfast and lunch at those two schools.” He said the church also sponsored a softball league.

Our Village Okeechobee again organized the Back to School Expo.

Superintendent Ken Kenworthy (right) thanked Seacoast Bank, represented by Teresa Lara, Briseida Ayala and Jon Geitner, for the support of the bank staff and customers in collecting school supplies.

“Leah Suarez took the lead in hosting the Back to School Expo,” said Mr. Kenworthy. “It was a tremendous event.

“If you needed something to start school, you could find it there, be it information, school supplies or clothes.”

Mrs. Suarez said Our Village has about 50 to 60 volunteers who help students and families “using our connections to be that pivot point to get what they need.”

She said Our Village also now hosts the graduation night party and sponsors families at Thanksgiving.

At the Back to School event, they had about 75 volunteers, she said. “We gave away about 350 cases of clothing and school supplies.”

Everglades Elementary School student Eva Sanchez thanked Zachry Industrial for their donation of supplies to the school. At right is Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy.

Publix is another great resource for the schools, said Mr. Kenworthy. “Through their partnership with United Way, they distributed school supplies that were donated by customers and staff. They’ve done that for many years, and it always continues to grow.”

Also recognized were State Farm for donating backpacks and a check to My Aunt’s House and United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties for generous donations of backpacks and school supplies.

Zachry Industrial was honored by Everglades Elementary School student Eva Sanchez.

“I just wanted to say thank you because they donated supplies for us at our school. The teachers and the students there were very happy about that,” she said.


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