by Derek Harkins, NCBC Public Affairs

Military families in cars formed a long line at the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) in Gulfport, Mississippi.

While this may not have seemed like an ideal way to begin a Friday evening to some of the drivers, one key factor motivated them to wait. It was back-to-school season and free school supplies were available.

NCBC Gulfport Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) hosted Drive Into the School Year, a back-to-school drive-thru event at NCBC Gulfport July 30, 2021.

MWR staff members manned a series of tables around Ladd Circle, where they offered free book bags, paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue and even snacks to the occupants of each vehicle passing by.

At the last station, participants were rewarded for their patience with a box of cheese or pepperoni pizza.

According to Kisha Culberson, the community recreation manager for NCBC Gulfport MWR, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a challenge for those organizing community outreach events.

However, it’s nothing that problem solving and creative thinking can’t overcome.

“This is the second year we’ve set this event up as a drive-thru,” said Culberson. “We have to be careful to follow COVID safety measures these days, but we may also keep it as a drive-thru for future events. By arranging it like this, we’re helping to keep people safe, but people also enjoy the convenience of being able to stop through in the comfort of their cars, especially if they were just getting off of work or picking up their kids.”

Karrie Davis, a human resources specialist for NCBC Gulfport MWR, said she was pleased with the turnout while working at the event.

“The cars lined up early and stretched out pretty far, but it was smooth and flowed very well,” said Davis. “I’m also glad we were able to help establish some normality for the parents and the kids, after how complicated the last two years have been.”

As the final cars passed the end of the circle, with new school supplies and the smell of free pizza in tow, Culberson said she was satisfied with how the event unfolded.

“We were happy to help get these kids excited for a new school year,” said Culberson. “I mean, who wants to go back to school? But we did something fun, gave the students something to look forward to and helped get them pumped up. It was very successful.”

Photo courtesy from Shelby Waldron.