Backpacks galore thanks to DSS

Students in Campbell County will be starting the school year off with all the needed supplies, thanks to the Campbell County Department of Social Services. The agency held its annual backpack and school supply giveaway on Aug. 7 and 8 - an event that has taken place for the last 27 years.

The giveaway is held in the DSS building before the beginning of each school year for the children of families who receive services from the organization. The event provides kids with some of the basic supplies they need to start their school year, such as notebooks, pens and pencils, glue sticks and even backpacks. Family services supervisor Charmagne Cooks said that students have the option of choosing a backpack and supplies or just one of the two, depending on their needs..

Cooks stressed that the event relies solely on the community. Donations, whether monetary or needed supplies, come from benefactors such as local organizations, churches and individuals. In fact, the agency has no budget for any of their events, making community participation all the more important. This year, the DSS had approximately 50 benefactors.

Just as important as monetary and material donations is the contribution of one’s time and energy. Volunteers play a crucial role in making these events a success - and they are always needed. Not only do volunteers work on special projects such as the supply giveaway, but they also provide transportation for seniors or for foster care visits, among other things.

Husband and wife James and Ann Carwile have been volunteering for the DSS for the past 12 years.

“I really found out that social services is so much more than what I ever thought it was … it was just something I wanted to do,” said James.

The Carwiles do a lot of shopping for the school supply giveaway. In order to get the best deals for the number of children they serve - approximately 376 this year - they begin in early July and frequent stores such as Walmart, Maxway and Roses. With the help of other volunteers, they sort through items and pack the bookbags for the children who will come in to receive them.

“It’s good to put some money somewhere and say I want to give this to somebody, but when you’re actually face to face with them, I see the need … it just makes you feel so good that you can help these people,” said James.

The DSS holds other events as well, geared towards the families they serve. Just recently, they partnered with the Campbell County Parks and Recreation Department and the local library to hold a book fair for children. Some local organizations helped with the drive, and the kids were allowed to pick out as many books as they wanted.

In addition, the DSS has Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter projects. Thanksgiving and Easter drives are particularly for the seniors under their care.

“Thanksgiving is the one we do for our seniors. Anybody that’s 55 years of age or older, we give them a food box, so they get a turkey and all those side items to go with it,” said Cooks. They distribute food boxes for Easter as well.

“I see people come in and they don’t have nothing to eat. You give them one little box of food, and if you could give them a gold mine there wouldn’t have been no difference,” said James.

Christmas is their biggest project. The DSS distributes both toys and food boxes to families, all thanks to community donations. James said it is similar to the Angel Tree, where individuals choose a child to foster. Last year, they helped 502 children have a merry Christmas.

The DSS is able to assist hundreds of families in the Campbell County area, thanks to the generosity of community organizations and individuals. They are always in need of new volunteers to help out with these special projects and other tasks. If you would be interested in giving a helping hand, contact the DSS at (434) 592-9585 or visit them at 69 Kabler Lane in Rustburg.