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United Way wrapping up school supplies campaign
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United Way of Hall County is still collecting school supplies throughout the week at its office, located at 527 Oak St. in Gainesville. Donated items support students in the Hall County and Gainesville city school systems.

The Hall County community has stepped up to make going back to school less intimidating for some local children.

United Way of Hall County’s School Tools for Cool Kids program is wrapping up, but United Way officials say people can continue to donate throughout the week. The program encourages the community to purchase school supplies for the Hall County and Gainesville school systems.

“To know that you’ve got everything when you start school is such a confidence booster,” said Carol Williams, United Way senior vice president for community impact. “Plus, we know that for a lot of kids this year, it’s going to be difficult for them to get the supplies that they need. It’s a pretty long list for each school.”

Volunteers collected nearly 90 boxes of school supplies, and every school in Gainesville and Hall County will get at least one box.  Schools with more students receiving free and reduced-price lunches will receive more boxes.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said getting school supplies comes as a relief for some parents.
“The parents are anxious, and the children are, because they want to be prepared and they want to be ready for the first day,” Dyer said. “They’re afraid that they’re going to get in trouble if they don’t have their supplies. All these feelings of anxiety starting school can be removed if we’re able to provide the supplies.”

Dyer said more parents from a wider range of backgrounds have called requesting school supplies this year, some saying they never thought they would have to ask for help.

“This enables us to get the supplies to the children in a quiet way and ensure the families that the community cares about them, because it comes from everybody,” she said.

Those donating had two options for getting involved — buy school supplies on their own to drop off at the United Way offices or a Hall County library branch or go to Publix to purchase a pre-packaged bag. Cargill also contributed, donating $2,000 and providing volunteers to help sort the supplies.

Donations include markers, pencils, backpacks and even copy paper for teachers.

“The great thing about it is it gives the everyday person an opportunity to do their part in a small way,” said Paul Daniels, Publix district manager. “You take thousands of people and add that together, and it becomes an event like this.”