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Community pitches in to help Spotsylvania County's homeless students at second annual Camp Out, Rock Out, Knock Out Homelessness event.
By PAMELA GOULD
The Spotsylvania school division's second Camp Out, Rock Out, Knock Out Homelessness event brought in more than $5,000 and a literal truckload of supplies.
The event, held at Massaponax High School the weekend of Sept. 8, included fun runs for children as well as music, food and activities for families.
The goal was to raise awareness of homelessness in the community as much as it was to bring in school supplies and donations, said school social worker Michelle Patton.
The number of homeless students in the county has grown during the past three school years, from 297 in 2009-10, to 483 in 2010-11, to 628 in 2011-12.
This year, the trend appears to be continuing. As of the end of August, there were at least 209 homeless students in Spotsylvania County schools. One month later, there are more than 300, Patton said.
The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires public schools to address the needs of homeless students.
Most of the county's homeless students live with their families in shelters, motels or with one or more other families. Some are "unaccompanied minors" without family support.
They are not people standing on the roadside holding up signs, Patton said.
The event raised $5,352 for the school division's social work fund.
Church groups and individuals, including School Board member Ray Lora, paid to camp out. However, with a major storm coming through the area that Saturday night, campers headed back to their respective churches or into the school's gym rather than staying outdoors in tents, Patton said.
In addition to activities at the high school, the division placed a box truck at the Southpoint Walmart to collect donations of items such as school supplies, toiletries, cleaning products and undergarments.
Patton said the truck was filled. Additional donations filled the school division's storage trailer behind Massaponax High known as "The Treasure House."
Despite the generosity of the community that weekend, the donations won't meet the needs of families and students through the school year, Patton said.
"As quickly as we get it in is as quickly as it goes out," she said.
Churches, businesses, families, public officials, school employees and students from at least three of the county's high schools pitched in to help the homeless students and their families.
Planning has already begun for next year's event, Patton said.
She said the event's success is likely because people can identify with the situation.
"What I think happens is people realize this could be me," she said. "It could be anybody."
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972