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WILLIAMSBURG On Tuesday morning, Vicki Davis, Alice Herring, Janet Jones and Dotti Rondi took a breather and surveyed a bounty of school supplies waiting to be sorted into a stack of 400 backpacks.

Within a couple weeks, families would begin showing up at the old candy store in the Sears shopping center on Richmond Road to pick up back to school bags containing a customized backpack and a brand new outfit for their child’s first day of school.

“It is really just a pleasure for us to come and work in this sweltering heat to make sure the kids are ready for school,” said Herring, with a laugh. “It’s fun even though we are sweating bullets.”

Close to 400 area students will start school with a fully packed backpack and a brand new outfit, thanks to the efforts of the Salvation Army of Greater Williamsburg. The supplies are designated for students in Williamsburg, James City and upper York counties who are classified as at or below the poverty level.

Herring, Jones and Rondi are volunteers with the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary.

According to the group, Herring is the team cheerleader,
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Jones is the accountant and Rondi is the master of organization.

And organization is key. The women would be customizing each backpack for the student receiving it, using the list of school supplies specific to that child’s grade and school.

Overseeing the operation is Vicki Davis, the social services program coordinator for the Salvation Army of Greater Williamsburg.

Davis said it is good for them to feel the heat while sorting the supplies because many of the Salvation Army’s clients live without air conditioning. And she said the help of volunteers like Herring, Jones and Rondi was invaluable.

“They are a tremendous help. Nobody wants to pack four or five hundred bags of school supplies and sort them and collect them all by their lonesome,” said Davis. “The women’s auxiliary they are great.”

Community members, churches, businesses and civic organizations donated the supplies. On Tuesday morning a group of freshmen from the College of William and Mary helped the women unpack the school supplies.

“They did it with a willing spirit,” said Herring. “Nobody slacked.”

Each family participating in the program will walk away with a white bag filled with the child’s school supplies and a new outfit. Eligible children are notified by the school system, and Davis said each year typically 99 percent of the supplies get picked up.

The outfits are courtesy of people who participated in the Apple Tree Program. Participants received sizing information for a child and bought the child a back to school outfit.

Davis said the goal is for each child to receive at least one new pair of shoes, a pair of pants, a shirt and a jacket.

Pick up day is Aug. 25,
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and participating families should already have an appointment time set. People with questions should contact Davis at 229 6651.

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