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Airbus Group and MAAF announce Starfish Project

Airbus, Belk, MAAF host 170 Students for Back to School Shopping 

Airbus Group, Belk and the Mobile Airport Authority Foundation (MAAF) teamed together on Saturday to host 170 students from the Dauphin Island Parkway community at a back-to-school shopping and fashion show event. The Starfish Project was created and managed by Airbus Group and Belk and coordinated through the Mobile County Public School System. During the program, each student participated in a shopping experience to receive two school uniforms, and then participated in a fashion show with the volunteers who helped them shop. 

Airbus Group, the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility, Belk, Continental Motors, the Mobile Airport Authority, the South Mobile Industrial Association (SMIA), and VT-MAE contributed funds and volunteers for the project, which is named for an essay entitled “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eisely:  a young man is walking along the shore picking up starfish and throwing them back into the ocean.   When an onlooker questions his actions, the young man responds that the starfish have washed upon the shore and will die unless they are returned to the water. The onlooker commented that there are miles and miles of beach with many starfish and “you can’t possibly make a difference!”  The young man picks up another starfish and throws it back into the sea saying, “It made a difference for that one.” 

Roger Wehner, Executive Director of the Mobile Airport Authority, said “this project is directly linked to our strategic plan to foster a sustainable aviation cluster in Mobile by working to ensure every local child has the best chance for an education,” he further commented that “MAA and our aviation industry are very involved in our local schools, but we knew there were needs not being met though typical donations of books, school supplies or other educational items.” 

Michelle Hurdle, Director of Economic Development and Community Affairs at Airbus Group said, “There are a lot of children across Mobile County who need the very basics to attend school. Uniforms are a basic, but critical, need.  The Starfish Project complements some existing uniform programs and allows more students to receive the clothes they need. The shopping experience and fashion show add a little fun to the process.”

The 170 students were nominated for participation by their respective schools. "The Mobile County Public School System is so pleased and grateful to be working with the Mobile Airport Authority Foundation on such a worthwhile project,” said Denise Reamer, District Social Worker for the Mobile County Public School System.   “This initiative provided a school shopping experience and uniforms to 170 students at four of our schools, and is an excellent collaboration between community partners who have stepped up to fill a gap in services. This initiative will enable these students to return to school in August ready to take on a new school year!”

Belk hosted the shoppers before the store opened for the day. Donna Watts, Belk Store Manager, Bel Air Mall said, “Belk is honored to work with Airbus on this very meaningful project.”