Shop benefits low-income students

Preparations for the 2007 Addison County Back-to-School Shop are well underway in anticipation of the event that will be held for the fifth year in a row at three locations in Addison County.

Four years ago a group of area residents initiated the Back-to-School Shop project. The high cost of school supplies for children starting out the new school year is daunting for many families, especially those with several children. The idea was to support these families and their childrens school needs by raising money in the community, buying school materials and offering a venue for shopping.

The community has responded enthusiastically and with amazing generosity. Even Miss Vermont Rachel Ann Cole, a student at Middlebury College, chose to use her title to advocate for her interest in promoting children's literacy. With the money collected from local fundraising, the cooperation of area merchants, service organizations, churches and the Ad-dison County school system, the Back-to-School Shop was launched. For the past two years it has operated under the umbrella and with the support of the United Way of Addison County.

The purpose of the shop is to allow income-eligible stu- dents grades K-9 to purchase school materials. For the price of $5 or $3 a so-called punch-card allows the student to choose from a large variety of punch-priced articles ranging from backpacks to binders, writing and drawing materials and reading books.

The eligible children are determined at the discretion of the schools and known only to them, thus protecting the privacy of those who participate. These children receive an invitation around three weeks prior to the event. Last year 451 students from 25 different schools in Addison County participated, a 7 percent increase over the previous year.

The shop is held in Middlebury, Vergennes and Bristol. The dates for this year are Thursday, Aug. 16 and Friday, Aug.17. This year the shop will only be open for two days and not three, as in the past.

Contributions as well as volunteers are needed and welcome. Donations can be sent to the Addison County Back-to-School Shop, Box 555, Middlebury 05753. Interested volunteers can call 802-545-2296 for details.

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