SARASOTA -- Mary Bradley Weeks remembers how as a teenager in high school, she would sharpen the few pencils she owned down to stubs that were nearly impossible to hold.
And after those pencils were gone, Weeks had to borrow pencils from her classmates. “It was so humiliating,” Weeks remembers.
She never really forgot the embarrassment of not having basic school supplies. So when her learning-hungry great-grandson, Adrian, was killed in 2002 at the age of two by a hit-and-run driver, Weeks knew exactly how to memorialize him.
She started the Mary Bradley Weeks Educational Project, which provides not only pencils, but paper, backpacks, compasses, rulers, markers, scissors and lunch boxes to families who otherwise cannot afford school supplies. The project’s annual School Supply Giveaway, which takes place today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is in its tenth year, is Weeks’ ideal way to remember a youngster who used to say to her every day, “Grammy, when are you going to teach me to read?”
“This is my passion,” says Weeks. “No child should have to go without basic supplies for school. This is about making the world a better place for children.”
Weeks started the effort with her own money, purchasing $99 worth of school supplies in August 2002 and distributing them to needy families. One of her first supporters was Fredi Brown, a respected Manatee County resident who founded the Family Heritage Museum, a black heritage museum.
“She just respected my opinion,” Brown remembers, “and I was sure she could be successful.”
Eventually, Weeks formed her own nonprofit organization and now solicits donations of cash and supplies throughout the year.
Although her project is based in Sarasota, more than half of its recipients are from Manatee County. Weeks said eligible recipients can be not only elementary, middle and high school students, but college students, too.
Weeks’ project is just one of the community service efforts she has undertaken. She belongs to Sarasota County’s Parents of Murdered Children support group and also is a volunteer murder victim’s advocate. Weeks, who had temporarily lost the ability to speak because of a stroke, also has written two books on sign language.
Christine Hawes, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.