With Candler County Schools on track to begin the 2020-21 school year on August 3, Communities In Schools and Metter Police Department are gearing up for the annual school supply giveaway. 

Just like with everything else, COVID-19 has caused some changes in the way the giveaway will be handled. Instead of a big, back-to-school celebration and carnival, the school supply giveaway will be drive-thru at the lot adjacent to the Metter Police Department on Lillian Street. The event is scheduled for Saturday, July 25, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

This is the fourth year that CIS has been involved in the back to school giveaway. CIS Executive Director Roberta Graham and her site coordinators have worked with the administration at all three Candler County Schools to determine what supplies are needed according to school and grade level. Now the task for the CIS team is to gather enough school supplies to pack at least 400 bags.

“Metter Elementary and Metter Middle School students are given bookbags with grade-specific supplies,” explains Graham. “High school students do not receive bookbags because the school has a no-bookbag rule, but they are given a large plastic bag holding their supplies.” 

The plan is for each bag to include a package of notebook paper, pens, pencils and some composition books. Each bag will also hold a pair of earbuds. This is a new item that is a direct result of COVID-19.

Graham says, “In the past, teachers have had a set of headphones that were kept in the classroom for students to use as needed; however, the headphones would now require quite a bit of cleaning and insuring that they are ‘safe’ between student use. Each student will instead have his or her own set of earbuds that he or she alone will use for online instruction.” Gathering enough earbuds for all of the students has presented a challenge.

“We always need help purchasing the supplies for the giveaway,” states Graham. “We pack the bags with composition books, pencils and pens, notebook paper, glue sticks, and other general schools supplies.” 

Graham explains the magnitude of the need with school requirements, saying, “Each student in third through eighth grade goes through eight of the black-and-white marble composition books each year.” 

That’s two composition books per subject per school year. She adds that Lesa Brown, Metter Elementary School principal, is asking that each child at MES have a pencil pouch. 

“Most teachers have kept pencils, pens, glue sticks and such in a communal container so that the supplies could be passed around or shared as needed,” Graham continues. “That won’t be happening during the pandemic because no sharing of materials will be allowed.” 

According to Graham, there are about 1200 students at MES who will be in need of pencil pouches. She adds that Brown specified pencil pouches instead of pencil boxes. 

“Pencil boxes take too much room in the book bags,” she said. The three-hole pouch that can be stored inside of a ring binder is the best choice, she adds.

High school students will need packages of college-ruled notebook paper.

As usual, the back to school giveaway has a need for supplies to stuff the bags. 

“Everyone is scrambling for funds,” Graham asserts. She hopes that local citizens and businesses will support the giveaway.


Ways to help out

There are several ways to help out. School supplies can be purchased and donated to CIS. The supplies can be dropped off at the Candler County Board of Education Office on South College Street. Promotional items, such as pens and pencils with a business name on them, can also be donated. 

Another way to support the back-to-school giveaway is by making a financial donation to CIS. The funds will be used to purchase the requested items. To make a financial donation, contact Graham at the Board of Education or by calling 912-536-9720.

When it comes to the day of the giveaway, volunteers will be posted at the drive adjacent to the Metter Police Department. Police officers will be there to direct traffic. All workers at the giveaway will be wearing masks and gloves to protect themselves and those receiving the school supplies.


Students must be present

“It is important that parents and grandparents know that the students who are to receive the school supplies must be present in the vehicle in order to receive a bag of goodies. All students are eligible to receive supplies free of charge, no matter if the student will be attending school for face-to-face instruction or continuing to have virtual instruction.”

Graham wants donors to know that no supplies will go unused. Any school supplies left over after the drive-through giveaway on July 25 will be stored in the site coordinators’ offices at the schools so students can have access to more supplies as need arises during the school year. 

Teachers and administrators know that all they have to do is let the CIS employee know there is a need for school supplies and the need will be met. 

Concludes Graham, “And there is always a need. That’s why CIS is here – to make sure needs are met so that students can be successful in school.” 

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