The children of the backstretch workers at Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows will start off the school year with new supplies, thanks to a program sponsored by the Florida HBPA and Gulfstream Park. More than 200 students received backpacks filled with notebooks, writing implements, and other necessities. Except for a pandemic-forced hiatus, the program has been in place for more than 15 years.
“The Florida HBPA and Gulfstream Park chip in to buy the school supplies,” said Pastor Tom LaPointe, who not only ministers to the backstretch community, but also oversees the Florida HBPA backstretch benevolence programs. “My assistant, Guillermo Fernandez, does all the shopping. We bring everything to my church and we have about 20 volunteers who help out stuffing the backpacks. Guillermo takes half up to Palm Meadows, and we distribute half here at Gulfstream.”
All agree on the importance of making sure the kids have what they need to succeed in school.
“I remember going back to school, it always felt good to start the year with everything new,” said Herb Oster, the Florida HBPA’s Special Projects Coordinator. “We want to make sure all kids have that, and they begin the school year the right way.”
The backpacks are customized for the different age groups, from pre-school to high school.
“The younger kids, the ones in kindergarten, they might get a Spiderman backpack, something like that,” Pastor Tom said. “For the high school kids, we include a calculator. We put hand sanitizer and snacks in there – each backpack is stocked with whatever they need.”
He added, “The families love it – it is one less thing they have to worry about.”