Like wine that ages well, some community events get better with age.
The Back to School Rally hosted by Project Reach G.A.N.G. (God’s Anointed Now Generation) turns 20 this year. The outreach event will be held from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday, July 14, at Briar Bay Park near Riceboro. The rally is open to Liberty County students and parents. There is no charge to attend. If it rains, the rally will be moved inside to the Riceboro Youth Center.
“We started in 1998,” said Lavonia LeCounte, executive director of Project Reach G.A.N.G. “We were the first to have this type of back-to-school rally on this level.”
The annual rally generally reflects a theme each year. This year, the event will include a reunion concert at 7 that night. It is anticipated that more than 100 former Project Reach members will attend.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. The free concert will be held at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Shaw Road, near Lyman Hall Elementary School. Antwan Cooks of Orlando is guest psalmist and the G.A.N.G. choir will perform.
LeCounte remembers when Project Reach met regularly on Mondays to engage area youth. Today, Project Reach meets once a month as many of its young members are involved in various after-school activities. LeCounte credits community volunteers, parents and schools for engaging more youth in productive pursuits. Project Reach has also organized seven community health fairs in Riceboro during the past 20 years, according to LeCounte.
She said her organization, like the public school system, tries to unify groups, businesses and churches for the purpose of motivating parents and students.
Her message is, “Hey, let’s all get on board and make this happen.”
As in years past, LeCounte has lined up speakers and activities for the event.
Liberty County Board of Education Vice Chairman Verdell Jones is mistress-of-ceremony for the rally.
Riceboro native and Westside Elementary School principal Dr. Cynthia Jackson Hammond is keynote speaker for the event. Hammond, whose school is in Warner Robins, was named Georgia’s Distinguished Principal in 2017.
Representatives from Fort Stewart, along with 3rd ID mascot Rocky and the post color guard, will also participate in the rally, according to LeCounte.
Area churches, businesses and organizations will set up stations to give out supplies and information, LeCounte said.
“We have an increase of stations this year,” she said. “We have 35 stations of businesses and churches giving out school supplies for all ages. We are asking parents and guardians to bring students in order for them to receive the supplies. We’re giving away five surface tablets. There will be other drawings provided by other businesses.”
Donors for the rally include Chemtall, SNF Holding, Coca Cola, the city of Riceboro, The Heritage Bank, the Liberty County Recreation Department, and the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and Minority Chamber.
Free hotdogs, hamburgers, chips and drinks will be served. There will be hayrides, a water slide and a mobile gaming truck. The Georgia Forestry Commission also will have a display.
LeCounte advises students and parents to, “Get there early and dress cool!”