Last updated: August 29. 2013 9:35PM - 1051 Views
By - dbroyles@civitasmedia.com

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United Fund of Surry County and Walmart in Mount Airy have wrapped up a third year of the Build A Backpack back-to-school supply drive with customers donating enough to serve the needs of 75 local children.

United Fund Executive Director Beth Pequeno said the agency was asked to partner in the effort because there was no United Way affiliate locally.

“We are acting as a partner with the bigger effort under way,” said Pequeno. “Bins were set up in the store and signage was posted. Boxes were labeled with United Way logos, but we acted as a local partner to get the items collected, distributed equally between Mount Airy City and Surry County schools.”

Both school systems make sure all donated supplies get in the hands of students who need them.

Pequeno said this was the first year the United Fund had participated with Build A Backpack. She said donations increased as opening day for schools got closer. Customers this year could tell their cashier about which items they were purchasing for donation and store associates would bag the items separately and take them to the bins.

“We’ve seen some signs of improvement in the economy,” Pequeno said. “Families are still struggling. Many can manage for a while and it only takes a series of things to happen to leave them in dire straits. There is certainly need in this community.”

She said Yokefellow Ministries had informed her that one in three economically disadvantaged children locally could be termed “food insecure.”

She also said the Build A Backpack program is not a part of individual school backpack programs providing meals for students to prepare over weekends. Information supplied by Walmart said the back-to-school supply drive is the largest such effort of its kind conducted by Walmart in North Carolina and involves 144 stores.

“We were excited to be asked to partner with Mount Airy Walmart to collect donated supplies and get them to the students who need them most. Many of these students are in families receiving assistance from our 26 member agencies,” said Pequeno. “This is a great example of how United Fund connects business partners, schools and our agencies for the betterment of our community.”

Another partner in this effort was the group Communities In Schools of North Carolina (CISNC), whis part of the national CIS group that acts as a dropout prevention organization. Literature from CIS indicates the group has worked with 180,000 youth and their families across the state.

“One unfortunate situation in previous years was there was no local contact for this,” explained Pequeno. “What I did not realize is schools have to have a certain number of students to allow closer monitoring from social workers. City schools have to rely more on their guidance counselors to get help to deserving students with less social service presence. We didn’t want anyone left out because they are in a smaller system.”

The United Fund of Surry County funds 26 agencies serving youth development, the special needs population and elderly/hospice care. These agencies provide emergency medical services, delivering meals to the home bound, child abuse and neglect intervention, medical care for the working poor, food for the needy and housing for low income families.

Reach David Broyles at dbroyles@civitasmedia.com or 719-1952.

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