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Stafford Hope Center volunteers work with the county school system to make sure students have what they need.
FILE/ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 9/13/2012
The Stafford Hope Center will hold its fall student clothing day event Sept. 22.
The event is invitation-only for children in Stafford County public schools who qualify as homeless.
In partnership with the school division, the Hope Center near Stafford Courthouse provides clothing for parents to pick from while the school provides snacks, school supplies and toiletries.
Vanessa Akin, the Hope Center's program and outreach director, said that donations of new or used fall and winter clothing, shoes and coats are needed. Backpacks, school supplies and monetary donations to buy what is needed also are appreciated.
Last year, the center received enough donations to open for a second day to accommodate children who could not attend on the first day, and helped a total of 200 children.
"We did not have to limit what each child could have," Akin said. "I hope to repeat that this year. However, we can only bless the children with what we have."
The Hope Center also expects to offer tickets to the Stafford Fair at the event.
The center is counting on donors to buy tickets from local businesses and offer them to the center to give away.
The tickets are good for unlimited rides. Admission to the fair is free.
"Partnering with area businesses, agencies and community events helps everyone," she said. "The children get to go to the fair, the fair benefits from increased ticket sales, and donors have the opportunity to help in a very real and tangible way."
Akin said that people don't realize how many children in Stafford County are considered homeless.
She said that 360 children in the county were designated as homeless last year. Living in a prosperous county makes the division between the haves and the have-nots even more stark in the schools.
"Children designated as homeless could be living in someone's basement, sleeping on a friend's couch or living in a motel room," she said. "You might not ever meet them, but they are there. All children want to be like their friends. By offering clothing, shoes and winter coats, along with backpacks and school supplies, [the center helps] children in need stand out less and feel better about going to school."
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976
If you would like to volunteer to sort and size the donations for the Stafford Hope Center's student clothing day, call 540/720-3663 and leave a message. The center, operated by Hope Chapel, is staffed by volunteers, so there is not always someone to take calls, but they will be in touch as soon as possible.