Sherese DeLoach handed out bag after bag of construction paper, crayons and pencils Saturday afternoon, standing tall amid a crowd of children at a Beaufort mobile home park.
The school supplies came from VIP Hope, a new nonprofit organization formed by Shang Torey Hopkins, the community crime prevention specialist for Bent Pine and Lakeview mobile home parks.
The back-to-school cookout Saturday was held at Bent Pine, a collection of about 50 rent-to-own trailers off Shanklin Road. DeLoach, 30, said she grew up there and was glad to see her old neighborhood getting the attention it deserved from management.
"A lot of folks probably didn't come out today, but it can be built up," DeLoach said. "And right now, we're living in a time when we need each other."
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In addition to feeding residents and preparing kids for their first day of school Monday, Hopkins said he wants neighbors to become more familiar with each other. Hopkins, who left his job as a Savannah State University police officer in April to work for park owner Pike Jones, saw the beginnings of that over hot dogs and ice-cold water Saturday.
With tattoos peaking out from his cut-off sleeves and a gun holstered at his waist, Hopkins still looks like a cop. He said that helps when he has to confront the drug dealers and other criminals who prey on his residents.
"It doesn't matter how much someone pays for rent. Everyone has a right to live in relative peace and safety," he said.
Hopkins plans to hold a second back-to-school party at Lakeview next month, and then continue with more seasonal themes, such as a fall festival and a Thanksgiving event.
Bent Pine resident Eva Mae Clark, 54, said she isn't worried Hopkins' efforts will peter out.
Hopkins and Jones have already proven themselves day-to day by helping her when she struggled to make ends meet and keeping criminals out, Clark said.
"I don't mind confronting the people who are doing wrong," Jones said. "If you shine the light, they normally disperse. So it's our job to keep the light on, every day, day and night."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.