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Hootie & the Blowfish give back to hometown with school supplies, other aid

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Before they were rock stars, before the platinum-selling albums and worldwide acclaim, Hootie & the Blowfish sometimes played clubs with only 50 or so people in the audience.

Even then, they used their music to help raise money for a good cause or help people in need.

"That's just something we've always done," lead singer and Charleston native Darius Rucker said.

While Rucker has moved on to a successful country career, the foursome still finds time to get together for something they believe in.

The band was back together Wednesday in downtown Charleston for its fourth annual Homegrown Roundup at Burke High School.

Organizers said up to 1,300 students attending schools in the Charleston Promise Neighborhood received free back-to-school supplies, along with haircuts, dental and eye exams, bookbags, uniforms and shoes.

Rucker, guitarist Mark Bryan, bassist Dean Felber and drummer Jim Sonefeld later put on a show at Family Circle Cup Stadium on Daniel Island to raise money for its foundation, which helps fund school music programs.

"We live in Charleston," Rucker said, explaining why this particular cause is so important to them. "Our kids go to school here." His new country music CD, "Charleston, SC 1966," is due out Oct. 12.

After striking it big in the 1990s, the group started the Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation.

"When we started our foundation, the goal that we first set forth was helping education," Bryan said. "When you think about the future of the country or the area that you live in, you got to start with the youth and how to bring them up. ... And this roundup has proven to be the most direct way to help."

Eight-year-old Anqwentte Richburg said the event was "very, very helpful" for her. And with her new school supplies, shoes and uniform, she said she's excited for the new school year.

"I'm looking forward to being a good kid like I normally am and getting good grades," she said with a smile.

The rising fourth-grader at Chicora Elementary School waited with her collection of new crayons, pencils and other school supplies while her older brother, Anthony, got a haircut by the Profile Barber Institute.

Their mother, Funchelle Scott, said she was grateful for the event, and that having haircuts available at the roundup was an opportunity for her 10-year-old to finally get his hair cut professionally. He clips his own hair at home, she said.

Overall, Scott said the roundup has helped her and her family out a lot. "Relieves the stress of shopping for back-to-school supplies 100 percent," she said.

The four schools that benefited from the event were Chicora, Mary Ford Elementary in North Charleston, and James Simons and Sanders-Clyde elementaries in downtown Charleston.

Their attendance zones also make up the Charleston Promise Neighborhood, which city and school officials are looking to revitalize crime- and poverty-wise.

The event is aimed to help students relieve the anxieties and stress of the start of another school year, which begins Aug. 18, Charleston Mayor Pro Tem Aubry Alexander said.

"This event has a greater impact on the kids of the county and of the schools of the city of Charleston," Alexander said. "It does more than supply books and paper and pencils. It helps them get through the first day of school."

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