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Local News

Take action: Day set to help Unicoi students

August 6th, 2011 11:11 pm by Brad Hicks

ERWIN — The second annual Community Day of Action is a little more than a month away and, in preparation for the event, organizers are looking for the community’s assistance in helping Unicoi County students in need.
The Community Day of Action is slated to take place Sept. 18 at Walmart in Unicoi and is organized by the Unicoi County School System in conjunction with the United Way and Second Harvest Food Bank.
The event provides an opportunity for students in need to stock up on supplies and clothing necessary for the school year. Food also will be distributed to some students through Second Harvest.
“By the beginning of the school year, we have families calling needing help with school clothes, school supplies and food,” said Sherry Wilson, school health coordinator for the Unicoi County School System. “Those are our three biggest issues.”
Whitson said the event started last year when United Way board member Janet Ayers saw a similar program in the Nashville area. Ayers met with Whitson and Unicoi County Director of Schools Denise Brown, who agreed there is a great need for such a program in the county.
“We didn’t have any expectations for that first year. You know, you do it the first time, you really don’t know what to expect,” Whitson said. “I guess the greatest thing that came out of that Community Day of Action was just the heart and the spirit of the community that pulled together to meet those needs.”
Last year, the community contributed more than $20,000 and nearly 190 of the school system’s approximately 2,600 students received assistance with clothing, supplies and food on the Community Day of Action, with an average of $112 spent on each student.
Whitson said organizers anticipate about the same number of students will need assistance this year.
“The economy isn’t that much better than it was last year, so I would expect it to be very similar, but probably a few more,” Whitson said.
Those wishing to contribute can sponsor a student in any of three areas. A $50 contribution will go toward the purchase of clothing for a student and will include shoes, jeans, shirts, socks and underwear. A contribution of $35 will sponsor a student for the purchase of school supplies including pencils, pens, markers, notebooks and a backpack.
To sponsor a child with clothing or supplies, checks may be written to the United Way of Unicoi County.
This also marks the fifth year the school system has partnered with Second Harvest to provide food backpacks to students identified as needing the service by school counselors. Beginning in September, these backpacks are distributed every other Friday to students throughout the school year.
Whitson said a contribution of $93 will sponsor a student for the food backpacks for the entire school year. She said in the past around 100 of these backpacks were distributed on a bi-weekly basis, but this number doubled last year.
Those wishing to sponsor a child with a food backpack may make checks payable to Second Harvest Food Bank.
Members of the community unable to contribute but wishing to participate in the Community Day of Action also may volunteer to shop with the students on Sept. 18, Whitson said.
All donations should be mailed to Unicoi County Board of Education, 600 N. Elm Ave., Erwin, TN 37650 to the attention of Sherry Whitson.
Those interested in sponsoring a student or seeking more information on the event may call Whitson at 743-7820 or via email at

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