Just before the beginning of the distribution of school supplies to an estimated 9000 SCSD students on the steamy Saturday afternoon Aug. 15, Mary Nelson was the model of "hands-on-management." Rather than stepping back after completing the monumental task of organizing, facilitating and financing her 8th annual BBQ and School Supply Giveaway, she roamed behind the distribution tables giving directions to volunteers in preparation for the well organized chaos (think Oklahoma Land Rush) that was about to begin.
Forty-five minutes earlier, Nelson had taken the stage to begin the party by addressing an audience that filled the blocked-off intersection of South Salina and Colvin Streets. She did not miss the opportunity to admonish parents that the purpose of the recent government $200 per family school supply subsidy was just that -- and that "I hope you used that money to buy clothes for your kids because we are giving them the school supplies."
It is clear that she understands the potential for misuse of the $175 million giveaway that should have been better managed.
Editorial remarks completed, she expressed the sentiments that were later echoed by the city officials and community leaders on hand -- that there could be no better way to spend money than on insuring a successful future for our youth. The mayor, chief of police, superintendent of schools, congressman, educators, common councilors, community leaders and political candidates seated in front of the stage all took a minute to thank Nelson and encourage students to succeed. Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey of Say Yes to Education paid tribute to the Syracuse City School District and its students, and recognized the city of Syracuse as the only city in the country to totally involve itself in the Say Yes program.
There was plenty of inspiration, but after all, it was a BBQ and a party and a giveaway and the kids were ready for it to begin. And following a group pledge to take pride in self and pride in community, it was time.
And begin it did, with entertainment on the stage, with crowds of laughing children celebrating the coming school year with food and fun at the games and other events and with a long line of students and parents filing through the entrance to the Key Bank parking lot for their school supplies.
It ended several hours later with thousands of Syracuse students prepared for the upcoming school year thanks to the generosity of many local individuals, groups and businesses, and especially the energy, generosity and love of community of Mary Nelson.