The Champaign County Veterans Service Commission, in cooperation with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans posts, is holding a Back to School Supplies for Veteran Families drive. Donors may drop off school supplies, personal hygiene items and monetary donations at the VFW/DAV building, 220 E. Court St., from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, from now until the start of school in mid-August; there will also be a box in which to place donations outside the canteen, open from 3 to 10 p.m. each day.
“This is countywide … K-8 kids … so it will entail quite a lot of people” said Champaign County Veterans Service Officer Buzzy Moore. “There always seems to be issues with schools not having enough supplies, and then you read about teachers that actually have to go out and buy a lot of supplies themselves. We just want to do the most good that we can.”
The VSC currently has about $1,700 to begin buying book bags and binders. Ten students are currently on the list for needing a complete package of school items. Assistant canteen manager Brandi Grissom said she is also planning to host a shopping day in the back room of the post on Aug. 8 for families who need specific items.
“We have a lot of veterans’ families that struggle, so kids going back to school is like worse than Christmas on some of their pockets, and when you have multiple kids it’s even worse,” she said. “We’re just trying to take some of the stress off their pockets.”
Moore said that it can cost $100-$150 to send a student back to school with school supplies and basic hygiene items like socks and underwear. He added that some of the people they see are grandparents taking care of grandchildren who live on a fixed income and are in need of help. The drive is open to those in the military, veterans and veteran dependents.
“There’s a lot of places that help everybody, but a lot of veterans are too proud to reach out,” he said. “That’s the mentality of a veteran, they do have pride and they don’t want to ask for help. There’s no paperwork for this, they don’t have to sign anything or fill out anything, they just have to let us know how many kids they have and what grades they’re in.”
He added that because this is the first year for the school supply drive, which they hope to continue and expand in future years, they were not yet sure how much participation they would see or how much they would be able to help each individual. The organizers asked that veteran families call ahead to provide the information for students in need of supplies. For more information, call either the VSC at 937-653-4554 or the VFW at 937-653-6365.
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304