MANATEE -- Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School assistant principal Ruby Zickafoose gasped Friday when she saw the amount printed on a giant check presented to her by the owners of Jersey Mike's Subs on 14th Street West.
The $1,037 check is part of a determined community effort spearheaded by Bethel Baptist Church to send 150 needy students from Orange Ridge-Bullock back to school in about a month with backpacks filled with supplies, a fresh haircut, medical and dental status reviewed and gift cards for new shoes and clothes.
"Thank you so much," an emotional Zickafoose told Jersey Mike's owners, Patrick J. George and his son, Patrick S. George and the Rev. Joey Mimbs, senior pastor of Bethel Baptist, whose congregation is putting on the highly organized Day of Hope for the children Saturday.
"The feeling I have is that my cup has runneth over," Zickafoose added.
The students, all chosen by teachers, pick up their treats from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on church grounds, 1805 30th Ave. W.
Linda Fryer, a Bethel Baptist Church member, was instrumental in enlisting the help of Jersey Mike's Subs, which created a whole Day of Hope campaign.
For about a week, the restaurant offered a free sandwich
to anyone who donated at least $1 to the Day of Hope.
"All of our staff have been excited about putting it back out there to the community," said Tara Pridemore, manager of the Jersey Mike's Subs at 4020 14th St. W., Bradenton.
Orange Ridge-Bullock's Day of Hope is actually one of eight Days of Hope being held at eight churches in Manatee and Sarasota counties, said Pam Hawn, founder of Hope Kids Community, which guides the events.
"We want all kids to feel they are on a level playing field," Hawn said. "It's hard to feel that way when you have to go to school in worn-out sneakers."
Orange Ridge-Bullock had 702 students last year, including roughly 60 homeless and 89 percent on free and reduced lunch, Zickafoose said.
"We had two children who lived with their parents and siblings in a park," Zickafoose said. "I remember one day when the little girl came to school in wet clothes."
In 2009, Hawn helped churches partner with neighborhood schools with large populations of homeless and needy students.
In Manatee County, Hawn linked Orange Ridge-Bullock and Bethel Baptist, First Baptist Church Bradenton and Ballard Elementary and First Baptist Church Palmetto and Palmetto Elementary.
Ballard and Palmetto elementary schools are holding Days of Hope on Aug. 9 at the campuses on First Baptist Church Bradenton, 1306 Manatee Ave. W., and First Baptist Church Palmetto, 1020 Fourth St. W., Palmetto, respectively, Hawn said.
"Her organization also supplies coaches to help the church put on the Day of Hope," Mimbs said.
Bethel Baptist's link with Orange Ridge-Bullock is not new. The church has worked with the school on volunteer reading, food and other programs, Mimbs said.
"We started helping Orange Ridge this last year," Mimbs said. "We have purchased jackets, socks, underwear, basketballs. As a church we tried to come alongside Orange Ridge and help them."
Mimbs said he is excited about Day of Hope, which is a lot more involved.
"Churches all across the area are doing it," Mimbs said. "We heard about and said: 'Wow, let's help these kids that often get overlooked.' "
Bethel Baptist expects 150 children to show up on its campus Aug. 2. Because the average cost per child is $100 for the event, the church must restrict help to those selected and invited by the school, Mimbs said.
"We wish we could help every child in the school but we can't at this time," Mimbs said.
Children selected due to need will receive a backpack with school supplies and bags filled with personal care items, Mimbs said.
Each child will also receive a $50 gift card to Bealls for uniforms or clothes and a $25 gift card to Payless for new shoes, Mimbs said.
Selected students also get a medical exam, a dental checkup, back-to-school photos, a haircut, ID photos from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and breakfast and lunch, with 175 sandwiches and chips supplied by Chick-fil-A from the DeSoto Mall, Mimbs said.
"Journey Assembly of God has coordinated with the Manatee County Food Bank and every family will receive 10 pounds of meat and a huge banana case-size box of dry goods and can goods," Mimbs said.
The American Red Cross will also conduct a CPR class for parents and will bring "Scrubby Bear" to help teach hygiene, Mimbs said.
"I am trying to network and I am fairly certain Turning Point will be with us that day as well as well as United Way, which will have a table to show resources," Mimbs said. "We are also helping the siblings of the Orange Ridge children that have been selected. They get the same things.
"If I can get funding for next year we will like to help the whole school," Mimbs added.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.