Suncoast students ready for school year after “Hugs and Smiles” drive

The drive was held on Saturday, July 29th.
The drive was held on Saturday, July 29th.(ABC7)
Published: Jul. 29, 2023 at 4:18 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Hundreds of Suncoast students are ready to tackle the new school year after this weekends “Hugs and Smiles” initiative, which provided everything from free haircuts to school supplies and gift cards to students.

Dozens of volunteers gave their time, while companies donated services and products to give the young students a jump start on their future.

“I have four kids and sending them all back to school can be very expensive,” said Sarasota resident Jasmanny Haywood.

Haywood showed up at the Robert Taylor Community Center Saturday morning with his five-year-old daughter Arelle, who will be a kindergartener this fall.

“All my kids want something different depending on their age, so it costs a lot,” said Haywood.

The Eternal Bread of Life Outreach organized the event and explained that the back-to-school program helps many.

“The need is great for families, especially since COVID and inflation,” said Eternal Bread Of Life Outreach Executive Director Shirley McArthur.

McArthur said her program has been a summer staple for years in Sarasota, and now requires families to register prior to attending.