<b> FORT STEWART, GA-- </b> There's an old adage that says, "It takes a village to raise a child." No one seems to understand this more than Lavonia LeCounte, the founder and executive director for Project Reach "God's Anointed Now Generation" Inc.

For the past 11 years, LeCounte, with the help of the community, Fort Stewart, the 3rd Infantry Division and local sponsors, has held an Annual Back to School Rally for the city of Riceboro and its surrounding areas.

"This has been a vision of mine since 1990," said LeCounte. "I've carried it like a baby until 1998 when we had our very first Back to School Rally, July 1. According to the papers, we had more than 2,000 people in attendance."

Since that first rally, the event has been a success every year, said LeCounte. By inviting local businesses to participate, it shows their tie to the community. The 3rd Sustainment Brigade showed their support by providing a color guard, an armed forces community greeting and a static display by the 3rd Sustainment Bde. medics.

Angela Long, a senior at Liberty County High School, has been around Project Reach G.A.N.G. since its conception, and has wanted to be a part of it ever since.

"When I was 7 years old or so, I would sit in the crowd and wonder when I could join," said Long. "They really gave off a positive image and I just wanted to be a part of it."

The event is completely free to the public. From the items they give to each student to the food they serve on the grill. Nothing is bought or sold at the Back to School Rally.

"We give back to the community," said LeCounte. "Our goal for the parents that come out here is that they won't have to go to the store and buy one piece of paper."

Riceboro citizens are not the only people encouraged to join in on the festivities, said LeCounte. Everyone from Liberty County, Ga. is invited. This year, a few people from farther locations came to participate.

"We have people from Augusta, Ga., South Carolina, Savannah and other places," said LeCounte. "The word is getting out."

LeCounte also recognized the military for being a big part of the community. The guest speaker for the day was Lt. Col. Lillard Evans, 260th Quartermaster Battalion rear-detachment commander. He talked about the military and its ties to the community. Also, he had much to offer the children in the crowd by way of advice on their futures.

"We in the military are committed to supporting our community in any endeavor," said Lt. Col. Evans. "This event in particular is about making a positive impact in the community."
He then spoke about his own childhood and his personal struggles growing up.

"Growing up and living in a poor community, values meant very little," said Lt. Col. Evans. "The main emphasis of the day was about survival."

He told a story of three friends. The one who disrespected his parents at a young age was now serving a 20-year prison term. The friend who cheated his way through school is at home struggling because he chose to take shortcuts.

"The kid who focused on doing things right the first time, learning versus cheating and believing in higher power is standing before you today," said Lt. Col. Evans.

Other distinguished guests who participated in the event included the mayor of Riceboro, Honorable Mayor William Austin; the Liberty County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy Scherer; and WTOC-TV anchor woman, Karla Redditte.

"The community has played a big part in organizing this event," said LeCounte. "It takes a village to raise our children. We can't do it by ourselves."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16