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More than 500 bags of school supplies given away at drive-thru Community Resource Fair

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — More than 500 bags of school supplies were given to smiling kids and their families Saturday as they prepare for an upcoming school year that looks different from years past.

Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s school supply giveaway was a drive-thru event. It was held at the Salisbury Civic Center, located at 315 MLK Ave. South, from 9 a.m. to noon. But by 11 a.m., all 525 bags had been given to the local community.

Patricia Jones “PJ” Ricks, who is a part of the city’s Community Action Team, said the pandemic was no barrier for Saturday’s event as the community “came out in droves to help us.”

Natalie Anderson / Salisbury Post — Phil Conrad of Cabarrus Rowan MPO and Flora Calderon-Steck of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College used Saturday’s Community Resource Fair as an opportunity to help locals begin and fully complete their 2020 Census.

Anne Little, city’s human relations manager, said the community received an “outpouring of support” for the event, and volunteers at the event were able to see “lots of smiling kids.”

Community surveys were used to determine what supplies were most needed. And this year, the community aimed to include supplies for virtual learning as well, Little said.

Of the approximately 525 bags, 300 were designated for elementary and middle school students and 200 were designated for high schoolers. The supplies in younger students’ bags and high schoolers’ bags varied slightly, with high schoolers receiving a pair of earphones for virtual learning and younger students receiving headphones. Bags also included face masks, toothbrushes, lanyards, folders, notebook paper and other general supplies.

Parents could also request a bag, which included face masks and information from local agencies about the resources available to the community amidst the pandemic.

“The ultimate goal is to connect the community with the wealth of resources we have on hand,” Little said.

John Schaffer, of the Human Relations Council, said Saturday’s weather and the drive-thru plan made the event operate smoothly.

The event also provided an opportunity for the city to continue reaching out to Salisbury residents with delinquent utilities accounts. City Communications Director Linda McElroy said city staff used a laptop to locate residents’ accounts and establish a payment plan for those who had not yet agreed to one.

McElroy said city staff were able to assist about 10 locals with payment plans on Saturday.

Additionally, Phil Conrad, of Cabarrus Rowan Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Flora Calderón-Steck, of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, used Saturday’s event to increase the county’s 2020 Census response. They used tablets and paper forms to help about 25-30 citizens either begin or fully complete their census. Calderón-Steck along with Lilliana Spears were able to assist Spanish speakers.

Rowan County’s current response rate hovers around 60%.

This is the third year the community has hosted a Community Resource Fair, which has brought together more than 50 local agencies specializing in health, addiction, education and family support in one place to help local families prepare for the upcoming school year.

Some agencies involved with this year’s event includes the Rowan County Health Department, Rowan Helping Ministries, Rowan County United Way, Families First and the Community Care Clinic of Rowan.

Little said the community intends to host another school supply giveaway event for students in January during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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