04 Aug School Supply Train Arrives August 6th
By Glenn Evans
July 26, 2016 at 10:37 p.m.
Education is a student’s locomotive to the future, but they can’t get on the train without their tickets — pens, notebooks, a backpack, or in some school districts, a uniform.
“I’ve seen them come to school without supplies. And you can just see how disappointed they are,” former Hallsville second-grade teacher Rachel Graham said Tuesday. “And it just breaks my heart.”
Sitting in a bleacher inside Longview First Baptist Church’s ROC activity center, Graham could look to her left and see about 1,400 student backpacks lined like soldiers along the gymnasium’s east wall.
Directly in front of her were more than 20 fellow Junior League of Longview members, in powder blue T-shirts denoting first-year status, stuffing more backpacks.
The School Supply Train will offer 2,500 backpacks to area students beginning at 8 a.m. Aug. 6. The Junior League, which has gathered and distributed the educational care packages since 1993, is moving the annual distribution to Saturday to make it easier for working parents to take advantage of the community outreach.
They don’t even have to bring the kids, but Graham said there will be free haircuts and vision screenings at the event.
The School Supply Train will take place at the ROC, across South Street from the downtown church. Graham, this year’s event chairwoman, said Junior League volunteers will stay until all the backpacks are gone.
They might disappear pretty swiftly, depending on turnout.
Participating families have been pre-screened by partner Buckner Children and Family Services, but there are more backpacks than pre-registered children. Families can register through Buckner at the event.
Graham said people who haven’t yet registered must bring a Texas driver’s license showing their address and a recent paycheck stub to meet Buckner’s eligibility requirement.
“We will be here all day, till we run out of supplies,” she said. “If we still have backpacks at 5 p.m., we’ll still be here.”
Funded through community donations, the School Supply Train has put $697,000 worth of supplies into almost 60,000 student hands, and uniforms on their backs, during its 23 years, 2014 Supply Chain chairwoman Kelsey Runde said.
This year’s outlay is about $55,000, in backpack increments running $20 to $30 apiece.
“It’s not possible without the people of East Texas,” said Runde, also a former Hallsville ISD teacher. “I think we saw the need for children in East Texas. It’s gotten more and more expensive every year for these parents.”