Tables piled high with back to school supplies filled the stage at Pine Island Elementary School Thursday morning thanks to the Matlacha Hookers School Drive Fundraiser, which brought the community together for the greater good of island youngsters.
"Thank you so much," Pine Island Elementary School Principal Robert Mazzoli told the Hookers. "This is great."
A constant smile and the simple word "wow" were expressed as soon as he opened the curtains on the stage and walked around to look at the tables. He told the Hookers that although this is his sixth summer of being the principal at Pine Island Elementary School, he is still amazed by the generosity of the community.
Matlacha Hooker Cindee Tolliver, Pine Island Elementary School Principal Rob Mazzoli and Matlacha Hookers Madam DJ Ruscik stand among the items collected during the Matlacha Hookers School Drive Fundraiser Thursday morning at the school. The items will be distributed to kids in need throughout the first week of school.
"It overwhelms me with the generosity of the community," he said.
Matlacha Hookers Madam DJ Ruscik told Mazzoli each of the listed items requested was donated, as she looked around at the tables.
The list that the teachers supplied included 30 school supply items.
There were 23 locations on the island this year where individuals had the opportunity to drop off school supplies for the elementary school students. In addition to supplies, many individuals also donated cash to the cause which allowed the Hookers to purchase supplies they felt the school would need more of during the school year.
Ruscik said Hooker members were also asked to bring school supplies to their meetings during a number of months.
Sandra Williams, information specialist for Pine Island Elementary School, said there is not a child that comes to Pine Island Elementary School that does not have the supplies they need.
"It's awesome," she said of what the Hookers and the community do for the school. "It's overwhelming. Feeling the love from the community."
Williams said the students who need school supplies are either identified by their parents or teachers before school starts or during the first week of school.
"The parents will call before the beginning of the year," she said.
Teachers send the students who need school supplies to the front office during the first week of school. Williams said it is great to see the youngsters' faces when they send them to the classroom with a backpack full of school supplies they need for their grade.
New students who enroll in the school throughout the year are also given school supplies if they need them.
The supplies that are left over are put into storage so they can be dispensed throughout the year in the teachers' boxes when they start to run out of certain items.
"The Hookers are the best organization, they really care for our children and the island," Williams said.
Williams said she remembers the year that Hurricane Charley hit and how the individuals and businesses helped tremendously with school supplies. She said due to the abundance of support they donated school supplies to Mariner High School and Trafalgar Middle School.
"We still want to make sure they are taken care of," Williams said, because they were once Pine Island Elementary School students.