School doesn't start for another week, but more than 200 McDuffie County families already have the tools they need.
Thanks to the annual Pencils and Partners school supply drive sponsored by McDuffie County Partners for Success, the students this week picked up backpacks full of pencils, paper, folders, binders and many other items.
"This has been a wonderful process," said Miriam Smith, executive director of McDuffie County Partners for Success. "We have been so touched by the outpouring of support from the community. Thomson, Dearing and McDuffie County showed they are committed to ensuring that students are prepared to start school."
Some of the groups, businesses and organizations that helped with the school supply drive include Walmart of Thomson, Milsco, First Baptist Church of Thomson, First Methodist Church of Thomson, Macedonia United Methodist Church and Dearing Baptist Church.
This year marks the second for the program, but it is the first time each student also received a pair of tennis shoes. Mrs. Smith said the shoes were an important and necessary addition to the list of needed supplies.
"There's a national emphasis on combating childhood obesity," she said. "But more than that, we know there are some students who can't afford to buy new shoes and start the school year in shoes that are worn out or too small. That's one more obstacle toward success that we can remove."
Not only did this year's Pencils and Partners program provide shoes for the students, it also served twice as many students as 2009. The families spent several days last week visiting the Partners for Success office on White Oak Road to pick up their supplies.
Each of the families served by Pencils and Partners are already working with, or were referred by, various local agencies, including McDuffie County Department of Family and Children Services, the McDuffie County school system and the Thomson-McDuffie County Housing Authority.
"We are so proud of this program, but we are already looking to our next opportunity to help McDuffie County residents," Mrs. Smith said.
In December, Partners for Success plans to distribute Christmas presents again. Last year, Santa Claus made a special Christmas Eve visit to some local residents and handed out toys, clothes and other items. Mrs. Smith said donations are already being accepted to help make this Christmas even brighter.
For more information, please call Partners for Success at 706-595-3112.