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Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

Students at five Fortuna schools are receiving supplies including backpacks, paper, pens, and pencils, generously donated to Eel River Brewery at its recent Back to School Backyard Bash. The event was held Sunday in the Fortuna Brewery's outdoor beer garden.

The sun was shining brightly, music was provided by the local calypso band Steel Standing, there were a tie-dye table, great beer (for those 21 and older), and tasty food.

Community members attended donating more than 20 backpacks, a graphing calculator, several reams of colored paper, binders, folders, rulers, erasers, educational games, over 200 pencils, and more than 200 colored pencils and markers.

The supplies were divided evenly among Toddy Thomas, Norman G. Ambrosini, South Fortuna Elementary, Fortuna Middle, and Redwood Preparatory schools.

Eel River Brewing Company Event Coordinator Nicole Schwartz came up with the idea for the event.

”My inspiration came from the excitement my stepdaughter showed when we gave her a new backpack full of supplies,” Schwartz said. “Something as simple as school supplies can give a child the confidence of knowing that someone believes in them,” she added, noting also that not all families can afford these items and that school budgets are tighter than ever.

One of the event's popular activities was a tie-dye table where you could bring your own or buy a shirt, choose your colors, and create your own design.

”I just made my grandson a tie-dyed shirt,” Brewery Chief Financial Officer Margaret Frigon was heard saying.

The calypso sounds of Steel Standing motivated many to tap their toes and others to get up and dance in the warm afternoon sun.

Eel River Brewing Company is planning additional special events in the future, combining art, music, and good friends.

”With each event, we want to give back to the community,” Schwartz said, “and the Back to School Backyard Bash was for the kids.”

Volunteers who helped plan and worked at the event included David Bourne, Marissa Bourne, Ashley Menza, and Stephanie Gurley.

Photo by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

A large crowd gathers at the Eel River Brewery Beer Garden to support Fortuna City Schools.