SAN ANTONIO – A man’s vision to bring his community together by means of a back-to-school drive has not only grown since 2011 when it was kicked off, but it has changed his life.
Tyrone Polk, a community leader, said it all started because of the violence in his neighborhood.
“You had shootings, drive-bys, break-ins and all of that,” Polk said. “I wanted to make a change to show everyone we can all come together and get along for a different cause.”
Poke named the event Increase the Peace. He said he only expected it to be a one-time event.
“Everybody didn’t see the vision that I saw,” Polk said. “So it was like let’s just knock this out of the ballpark and that will be a wrap, but God came knocking on the door and he was like, 'I am not done with you. I need you to keep pushing.'”
Since 2011, Polk said the event has received enough donations to serve around 5,000 children, with donations coming from places as far as Korea and Germany.
“It is a beautiful feeling. I just got to give praise to God, because if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be in this position,” Polk said. “This event is not about fame or being a celebrity. It is about caring for the next person, caring for the next person and wanting to help somebody.”
He said growing up in a household that couldn’t afford clothes and supplies for him while he was in school is what triggered his passion to help the underprivileged youth today.
“I grew up with nothing,” Polk said. “So when I do see someone struggling or that a family can’t get what is needed, I know what that pain feels like. That feels deep in my heart, so by us doing this, I just know we are blessing another family.”
Each year, Polk and his wife, Valerie, spread the word about the back-to-school drive through flyers, social media and word of mouth. The preparations take about six months.
“We get to a point where our entire house is filled with notebooks, backpacks and more,” Valarie said. “We pocket nothing. The gift cards we receive, we raffle them off during the event.”
During the event, children and their families enjoy food, free haircuts and more while getting the supplies they need. Polk said the biggest joy comes from the feeling of giving.
“Seeing the kids smiling and enjoying their day for just the six hours that we are there, seeing them smile is just a blessing,” Polk said.
He said it also has served as a life lesson for his two little boys.
“It is exciting to see your son saying 'Dad, can we help you stuff backpacks? We got to help the people,'” Polk said. “For my son to know that we are helping people and tomorrow is not promised, you never know when you are going to get the opportunity.”
This year, the Polks are throwing the annual Increase the Peace Back-to-School Drive again.
The drive will be held from 1-6 p.m. Saturday at Comanche Park.
“We are grateful to be able to provide to the underprivileged in the city, at least to get them motivated and focused and get back in school and give them encouragement at the least," Polk said.
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