Sheriff’s Office set for backpack drive

Announcing a return of its summer backpack drive, the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office plans to help area underprivileged children acquire needed school supplies before fall.

The backpack drive runs in partnership with the Department of Social Services and  backpacks will be delivered in mid-August, said Sgt. Rebecca “Becky” Mauck.

“Last year we actually supplied approximately 600 students with backpacks,” Mauck said, “all from the help from the community.”

Though she said she expects to help anyone recommended to the program by Social Services, pre-registration is required to ensure the Sheriff’s Office has enough backpacks for the appropriate age levels of those who need them.

The deadline to register for a backpack of supplies is July 10, and those interested should call Social Services at 540-459-6903.

Though the Sheriff’s Office will accept monetary donations for the program anytime, main collection days will be on Virginia’s recently combined sales tax holidays, Aug. 7-9, at the Wal-Mart in Woodstock, where a school bus bearing a sign for the backpack drive will accept school materials and cash donations.

“Your basic school essentials is what the schools ask us for,” Mauck said.

Materials include paper, pencils, crayons and, in particular, three-ring binders, which the department usually comes up short each year. Monetary donations help with whatever is missing when volunteers begin packing backpacks at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School in the week of Aug. 10.

The 2015 sales tax holidays combine a previous August school supply and clothing tax-free weekend with two other sales tax holidays for Energy Star- and WaterSense-qualified products and hurricane and emergency preparedness equipment.

Purchases of certain school supplies, clothing and footwear are exempt from Virginia sales tax, with details at the website http://www.tax.virginia.gov/content/sales-tax-holiday. Each eligible school supply item must be priced at $20 or less, and each eligible article of clothing and footwear must be priced at $100 or less.

The tax-free weekend presents a good opportunity for donating school supplies, but Mauck said that doesn’t make the need any less important for the many Shenandoah County residents who cannot afford a backpack or other school supplies.

“And the scary part of that is you have to pre-register,” Mauck said. ” … We really have to have you pre-registered so that we have an age appropriate backpack, and a backpack [is] ready for you.”

Extra supplies go to area elementary schools or private schools and other organizations that can use them.

Mauck also said her office works with schools to remind those on the backpack list of the pickup date, but still, every year, backpacks go unclaimed.

“We always have about 20-25 folks who either don’t show up or their numbers have changed, … but we keep those extra backpacks at DSS,” she said.

Last year, 12 backpacks of supplies remaining by the start of school were given away at Christmastime.

“So it all gets utilized,” Mauck said. “Their donations are very much appreciated and utilized.”

“We’re always kind of humbled by it, the amount of support that we get for this event,” Mauck said.

“We have found the outpouring to be tremendous from the community in Shenandoah County.”

To pre-register for a backpack, contact the Department of Social Services at 540-459-6903.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com