Lasarahlee Kelley, a 13-year-old student at Davila Middle School, wandered the aisles of Walmart on Briarcrest Drive in Bryan on Thursday to find new shoes, clothes and a watch to start the school year.
She was shopping with a $100 gift card she received from the Salvation Army of Bryan-College Station’s Women’s Auxiliary, for the Salvation Army’s 13th annual Back to School Shopping Event.
Cathy Withers, a Salvation Army volunteer who helped Lasarahlee search for clothes and shoes, realized that Lasarahlee would surpass her $100 budget if she picked out all of her items, including a watch she really wanted.
At the checkout, Withers decided to pay the difference on the total and hand delivered the watch to Lasarahlee as a surprise.
“That is what I wanted to do. It was a gift to me, for me to be here,” Withers said after purchasing the watch. “This is my first year as a volunteer and it feels wonderful to be able to help someone, and see them get the things that they need to start the new school year.”
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Lasarahlee was one of 30 students who received $100 for the shopping event, after completing annual character-building classes through the Salvation Army, which are open to any student ages 6 to 18.
The students and their families who participated in the shopping spree sought out clothes and shoes, and at the end, were gifted a new backpack donated by the Bryan Walmart.
Captain Andrea Israel, Salvation Army Bryan-College Station corps officer, said this event is “a big stress reliever” for the families before school starts.
“School costs can be so expensive, and being able to take off just a little bit of that cost with being able to get the children new clothes and new shoes; it is a wonderful boost to each child as well,” she said. “With how gas prices have just been through the roof and the cost of everything has just increased, it is an opportunity to communicate hope to so many of these families and that the Salvation Army and the Women’s Auxiliary cares for them.”
Israel said one of her favorite things about the event is the opportunity for the children to choose a free backpack as an added treat.
“They have already picked out these clothes they like and have gone to check out, and think they have exhausted their funds, and suddenly there is a bookbag they get to choose from,” she said. “This is a great way to reward the children who have been participating in our character-building programs that happen throughout the year. … These are children who have been coming faithfully throughout the year, and the Women’s Auxiliary is putting the funds that they raised specifically for this.”
Pamela Moorehead, Lasarahlee’s mother, said she has been participating in Salvation Army programs since 2006 and is grateful for the help.
“I am a single parent with two kids … and ever since we have been going, the Salvation Army has been a big help,” she said. “This is a blessing, when [things happen] you don’t know who you might need, just help any and everybody you can. The Salvation Army has been there a lot for us.”
When Moorehead saw Withers gift the watch to her daughter, she said that was truly special. When she realized Withers had also helped pay the difference on the total, Moorehead said, “God is good.”
Kdomedaundra Kelley, 16, is Moorehead’s son and a student at Rudder High School. He also participated in the shopping spree, and said he feels great starting the year with new boots.
Larry Beavers, general manager for the Briarcrest Walmart, said it is unbelievable they are able to help out local organizations such as the Salvation Army.
“They do a great service to Brazos County and the Brazos Valley,” Beavers said. “We want to provide the students something. A lot of times in the years past, we have been unable to provide the backpacks, so if we are able to provide that, they can actually focus on themselves as far as concentrating on finding clothing and what to wear to get ready for school.”
JoAnn Grandjean, a member of the Women’s Auxiliary, said it is important to help someone in need any way you can, no matter how big or how small.
“There are so many people that need help; and just a small amount, I hope, does help,” she said. “This is a really touching experience to work with the kids and their families. It is exciting to see them get something extra, something new.”
For more information about the B-CS Salvation Army, visit salvationarmybcs.org.