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DFCS seeks book bags, school supplies

LAWRENCEVILLE - Book bags, binders and superhero-themed folders are items parents will soon begin to buy for children as another school year approaches.

But children who do not have that opportunity will have to depend on the generosity of strangers this year.

The Gwinnett Department of Family and Children Services has begun to ask for donations of new book bags filled with supplies for the county's numerous foster children.

Book Bag Benevolence helped provide foster children and children in protective care in Gwinnett with the school supplies they need for many years.

The county's foster children are usually not in the same position as their classmates to buy new school items according to project coordinator Sue Zearn Hearn, who hopes the difference will not be as obvious with the donations.

"The children in foster care (and protective services) have had something traumatic happen in their lives. With the donations it will not be obvious that they don't come from families with the financial resources to buy school supplies," said Hearn, who has volunteered for the past three years in various DFCS programs.

Along with school supply donations, monetary donations of any amount are welcomed to enable DFCS to buy the necessary additional items.

Children in protective services and foster care are not the only ones positively affected by the program. Parents identified in the system as in need of financial and other support are contacted to pick up the book bags for their children. Last year, around 40 supply-filled book bags were given to these families.

Donations are asked to be delivered between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. July 30-31 at the Georgia National Guard Armory at 261 E. Crogan St. New book bags filled with items such as binders, spiral notebooks, pens and pencils, markers, theme covers and paper are suggested. These donations should also be age and gender appropriate and should also be marked for the intended age and gender.

Gwinnett County DFCS has seen an increase in the number of children in protective services and in foster care this year. Hearn believes the number to be around 1,000 children in foster and protective services.

Volunteers also have the opportunity to make a difference by assisting in the collection and distribution process. Both teen and adult volunteers are encouraged to work a shift at the Armory July 30 through Aug. 10.

Volunteers in the past have made a significant difference in the program by collecting the supplies, putting together the items and helping distribute the donations to case managers as the first day of school approached.

"When you see the children with the brightness in their eyes, it (allows) the volunteers to see what it is all about," said Hearn.

To sign up for full or half-day shifts, contact Hearn at 678-344-0127 or szhearn@bellsouth.net or contact volunteer resource coordinator Deborah Barinowski at 678-518-5758 or debarinowski@dhr.state.ga.us.

Book bags are not always filled with just the usual necessary supplies. A Mary Kay representative donated make-up kits and allowed the program to give more than just the usual binders and paper last year.

"We fixed up a bag for high school girls and put make up kits in the bags for just an extra surprise," said Hearn.

Items such as hair brushes for boys are sometimes included.

Specific supplies lists by grade and volunteer information can be received by contacting Barinowski.