Several tables were piled high with back to school supplies - pencils, spiral notebooks, composition books, filler paper, book bags, Elmer's glue, crayons, folders, erasers, scissors and much more.
"Oh wow," said Pine Island Elementary Principal Robert Mazolli said. "Thank you so much. I really appreciate all you do for Pine Island Elementary. The Matlacha Hookers do a remarkable job. They see to it that every student gets the supplies they need."
The Matlacha Hookers were founded in 1998 by 21 women. Their goal and motto was, and still is, to "make a positive difference in the community." Over 1,000 members have signed up over the years.
From left, PIE?Principal Robert Mazolli, Arlene Stornello, Joanne Vollmar, Theresa Kramer, Dixie Dakos and Karen Mckee.
"The Hookers started out in 1998 with a fund-raising fishing tournament and have held the tournament every year since then, except for the year of Hurricane Charlie (in 2004.) This fund-raising for the students at Pine Island Elementary began shortly after the groups inception," past Madam President Arlene Stornello said.
"We start placing bins during the summer in local businesses around Pine Island and Matlacha, any place where individuals have the opportunity to place supplies in the bins," she said. "Our business community, by the way, is very supportive of these efforts. Businesses welcome our bins every year and they are a big part of the reason this all comes together. Each bin has a list of supplies the same list that is handed out to the parents before the school year. At the end of the summer we collect the bins and deliver the supplies to the school."
In addition to the school supplies, some individuals also donate cash. This allows the Hookers to purchase supplies and fill in the gaps where there is a shortage of pencils or notebook paper, for example.
Sandra Williams, information specialist for Pine Island Elementary School, said, "Any child that needs any supplies gets what they need. Parents can let us know before school starts that their child needs supplies and we'll handle it here at the school.
"What we also do now is to let the teachers know that if any student needs anything at all just send them down," she added. "If a student has nothing we give them a backpack and all of the supplies on the list. If they only need filler paper then that's what they get. No student goes without."
"What these ladies do for us is overwhelming. The whole community comes together every year. This is a very generous community," Mazolli said. "Once every student is supplied with what they need, the rest is placed in storage. This way if a student needs anything during the school year it is available for them."
"Although the Hookers started this many years ago, they get help from the American Legion Auxiliary, Ladies of the Moose and so many others," Stornello said.