The Grayson community and several non-profits banded together last Wednesday, August 4, for a back to school event at the United Community Center in Grayson.

Invest In Me and Love Stanislaus coordinated the event, but Project Sentinel, Each Mind Matters, the United Community Foundation, Promotoras of Patterson, and Golden Valley Health Centers offered their services to those in attendance.

Invest In Me is a non-profit serving Stanislaus County dedicated to self-empowerment, leadership, and civic engagement. The founder and executive director, Erica Ayala, did much of the organizing for this event.

Ayala explained how though her childhood was great, her family had little when she was young. Her goal with Invest In Me is to serve others and help those that lack support or resources, and, she said, if you have the power to help people, why not do it?

Invest In Me's table at the event sported a colorful wheel, those who landed on one of a special few spokes getting a backpack for their educational journey. Anyone who didn't win a backpack still received school supplies.

Commodities provided by The Salvation Army were distributed by the United Community Foundation.

Five years ago Helena Melo-Flower and Lilia Lomeli-Gil started the UCF, with the following mission statement provided on their website, "The mission of The United Community Foundation is to serve the communities of Grayson, Westley, and Vernalis by providing activities that promote safety, wellness, learning, and leadership. Its purpose is to improve the quality of life for residents of all ages and to cultivate positive values and community pride."

The organization does many things, but all are centered on the goal of serving the community. The organization operates out of the United Community Center, a building maintained by Stanislaus County that was the setting for the back to school activities.

Both Melo-Flowers and Lomeli-Gil also work with the Police Activities League, an after school program, and Melo-Flowers volunteers for Senior Meals as well.

Other community-serving establishments participated in the event including: Every Mind Matters, a movement dedicated to raising awareness of mental health and removing the stigma around mental disorders, and Project Sentinel, a housing advocacy group, and the Promotoras of Patterson whose focus is creating community, developing leadership and promoting wellness.

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