Turning 6 on the same Monday that school begins in Gulf County, McNair had already chosen her new backpack and practiced with its bulk Tuesday.

Kaelani McNair was ready.

Turning 6 on the same Monday that school begins in Gulf County, McNair had already chosen her new backpack and practiced with its bulk Tuesday.

McNair was among the first children to benefit from a school supply drive hosted by CareerSource Gulf Coast and funded by the Coastal Community Association of Gulf County.

In all, by the time of Tuesday and Wednesday morning giveaways, roughly 75 backpacks, complete with all the supplies on the list provided by the schools, were ready for the children.

The giveaway was first-come, first-served at the Washington Improvement Group building, but the goal was that any and every child who needed the boost, got it.

“The generosity of the folks in Gulf County is simply unlimited,” said Dr. Pat Hardman, president of the CCA. “Every child who needed suppli9es will have them to start the school year.”

The CCA raised over $3,200 to purchase supplies, which enabled them to add two grades of students to the needs list, pooling donations from individuals and businesses in town and in South Gulf.

The Port St. Joe Lions Club, South Gulf County Volunteer Fire Department and the CCA also provided donations.

That money was raised in just one week, Hardman noted.

Five courageous souls did the shopping, spending Saturday, during tax-free back-to-school weekend, purchasing the supplies specific to the grades.

“Shop they did, making every penny count,” Hardman said. “I had no idea how expensive buying your child’s required school supplies could be.

“We had estimated $45 per child for the supplies listed but it was more, and that didn’t include clothes and shoes. It would be a challenge for anyone on a limited income.”

After all, as was noted Tuesday morning, who would believe a child would need nearly 20 glue sticks for the coming year?

By the time they were done, the shoppers had filled 10 shopping carts to the brim with supplies.

There was also extras; there was $500 left over to purchase iteams for middle- and high-school students and the Junior Service League donated hygiene items to be given to fifth- and sixth-graders.

The results were smiles for children threading in Tuesday morning and a feeling of satisfaction for the organizers, and donators, of the effort.

“Can you imagine having had any one of these little kids walk into school without what they needed to learn?” Hardman wondered. “This school supply drive gives them a ‘good start’ to walk in with shiny new stuff and levels the playing field for them to have a great experience in their new classroom this year.

“Thank you to all who opened their hearts and gave and for the folks who gave their time and effort to organize and shop.”

For Kaelani, it was a chance to have an even bigger smile when she walks in the first day, backpack secure and full, and pronounces, “The birthday girl is here.”