Okeechobee educators stay busy during school break

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County Education Association (OCEA) stayed busy during the summer break this year.

Back on June 1, members of the OCEA, including Florida Education Association’s Frank Peterman III, and a handful of volunteers held a First Books event in downtown Okeechobee. Over 9,500 books were given away for free to the nearly 1,000 Okeechobee residents who came out for the event.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/OCEA
OCEA members fill one of the many crates of books the group gave away at an event on June 1.

First Books was a coordinated effort between OCEA, the Indian River County Education Association, Martin County Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, Florida Education Association to bring the gift of reading to their respective communities for free. People in attendance were given a ticket and a bag and were allowed to take any book of their choosing at no cost. The available books were categorized by age and grade level. There were drawing books, dot-to-dot, and even short story books with CDs to enjoy.

The event did face a few typical Florida sun showers, but volunteers managed to keep the books dry and ready for distribution.

“It was exciting to see the children and the parents faces light up as they made their way to each tent, picking from a wide variety of books to enjoy,” said OCEA President Jorje Botello of the event. “In a small town like ours, books are a great and wonderful escape, but can also help bring our families together. We at OCEA are proud to be able to bring First Book to Okeechobee, we love our students, our community and our city.”

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/OCEA
OCEA members volunteered to paint 19 boats for the Adam Bryant Minimal Regatta held on July 6.

Also in attendance at the First Book event were Okeechobee Mayor Dowling Watford, Schools Superintendent Ken Kenworthy, City Councilman Bobby Keefe and School Board member Malissa Morgan.

Mr. Botello wanted to give special thanks to the district office and staff who were instrumental in helping OCEA transport the books from Vero Beach to Okeechobee, as well as Mr. Kenworthy, who was also able to assist OCEA by spreading the word of the First Book event via school email, text message and district robocall.

Later, members of OCEA participated in the Adam Bryant Minimal Regatta held in Okeechobee on July 6. Volunteers painted 19 boats for the event which acts as a fundraiser for local charities. OCEA also helped nonprofit Our Village Okeechobee fill backpacks with supplies for a back-to-school expo held on Aug. 3. Our Village Okeechobee went on to give out nearly 600 backpacks filled with school supplies at the event.

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment