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Number of schoolchildren in need of supplies nearly doubles in 2011

This year’s “Community Day of Action” will bring with it a special challenge for Unicoi County residents as the number of children who will need school supplies, food and clothing has nearly doubled, school health coordinator Sherry Whitson said on Monday.
“There’s still a little over two weeks to go until our event, and we’re at 330 kids,” Whitson said. She said 187 students signed up to benefit from the Community Day of Action last school year.
“We state in the letter that we send home that there’s no guarantee the community will be able to meet every need,” Whitson said.
Still, Whitson said she has collected a little over $3,300 from generous citizens in the past couple of weeks, and she hopes more will continue to reach out to schoolchildren in the county who need necessary supplies, clothing and, most of all, food.
“I think that’s what really gets people,” Whitson said. “Nobody wants to hear about a child going hungry, and this community has a history of being so generous.”
Whitson added that she has faith that community will be able to rise to the occasion of serving more children for this year’s event, which is set to take place on Sept. 18, from 2-5:30 p.m. at the Unicoi Walmart.
Items bought in the store may be donated to the collection effort, and citizens may also opt to sponsor one or more students directly.
“Our needs are great this year,” Whitson said. “But we can meet those needs just based on how well the community responds.”
There are three areas of need in which members of the community can get involved in this year’s Community Day of Action: shoes and clothing, school supplies and food backpacks provided by Second Harvest.
Whitson said a student can be sponsored in any of these areas. The shoes and clothing sponsorship is $50 per student. Needed items include tennis shoes, jeans, shirts, socks and underwear.
The school supplies sponsorship is $35 per student. Needed items include a backpack, pencils, pens, a pencil box or pouch, safety scissors, glue sticks, notebook paper and markers.
A payment of $93 to the Second Harvest Food Bank will sponsor one student’s food backpacks for the entire school year, Whitson added last week. Beginning in September, the backpacks are distributed to students identified by school counselors every other Friday throughout the year.
Checks for clothing and school supplies should be made payable to the United Way, with checks for food backpacks made payable to Second Harvest Food Bank.
All payments can be mailed to the Unicoi County Board of Education, 600 North Elm Ave., Erwin, TN, 37650, to the attention of Sherry Whitson.
Whitson and the school system, along with the Second Harvest Food Bank and the United Way, launched the Community Day of Action in September of last year, and local citizens raised more than $20,000 to assist students who demonstrated financial need at that time.
Any questions may be directed to Whitson by calling 743-7820, or by e-mail to [email protected]