Hundreds of students will be able to receive free school supplies at a special event this month thanks to generous donations from the community.

Monroe County’s Coordinated School Health and Family Resource Center will host its annual High Fives and School Supplies event at Madisonville Primary School on Thursday, July 25, from 4-6:30 p.m. The first 500 students will receive free backpacks, school supplies, a meal and a “Life is Good in Monroe” t-shirt.

“This event is a sense of community,” said Shannon Wheeler, director of the Family Resource Center. “Our goal is to not only provide students with the supplies they need, but show them that their community cares about them.”

“We want to show the children of this county that they are loved and supported by our school system. Having this event is something so small, but so big. It’s worth doing,” added Coordinated School Health Director Lacey Mason. “If their basic needs aren’t met, we can’t expect them to perform their best.”

Since 2010, Coordinated School Health and the Family Resource Center have been able to give out free school supplies at this event with the help of churches, organizations, businesses, medical offices, insurance companies and individuals.

“This event is possible because of the community members who come, set up a table and provide school supplies,” said Wheeler.

Students will first receive the backpack so they can walk around to the variety of booths inside the gymnasium — each booth with different basic school supplies — and drop the supplies into the backpack.

“The first 500 students will receive a bracelet that will allow them to go through the line and as they leave the event, we cut the bracelet off,” said Wheeler. “By allowing them to walk around to the different booths, this connects the families with the people who are providing the supplies. It shows the students their community cares about them and their success in school.”

The High Fives and School Supplies event is free to all students enrolled in either Monroe County and Sweetwater City Schools. To receive the school supplies, however, students must be present at the event.

“A parent can’t come through and pick up supplies without the student being with them,” said Mason.

“Lookin’ Sharp for School,” a clothing closet for students, named in honor of the late longtime Technology Director Gary Sharp, who loved the students and school staffs in Monroe County, will also be set up for students to pick what they want during the event.

Donations of good, used clothing or brand new clothing, or donations of school supplies for the event can be dropped off at the Monroe County Coordinated School Health office, located in the former Maternity Center building by the Health Department in Madisonville.

If you would like to make a monetary donation for High Fives and School Supplies, sign up to have a booth at the event or have any questions, contact Wheeler at 423-442-7971.

“If we have anything left over or have additional donations, I have a room that I continue to stock throughout the year, and we give out school supplies all year long if a situation comes up and a family is in need,” said Wheeler. “They are welcome to contact our office, and we’ll try to help.”

Organizers are still in need of student-athletes and volunteers for the High Fives and School Supplies event.

“If you are a coach with Monroe County or Sweetwater City Schools and would like your athletes to know the importance of serving others, this is a great event to do so,” she said. “It’s a great way to play it forward.”

Mason said research from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) indicates that athletic departments and coaches play a role in service engagement.

“Fifty percent of college student-athletes report that they are required to take part in community service as part of their athletics participation,” Mason noted. “Research indicates this athletic service requirement enhances the likelihood that student-athletes will participate in service on a regular basis. Nearly two-thirds of those required to serve agree that volunteering with their team is a valuable experience.”

More than 150 student-athletes volunteered at last year’s High Fives and School Supplies.

“I’ll be honest in saying I was completely moved and humbled,” Mason reflected.

Student-athletes who would like to volunteer at the event can contact Mason at lacey@monroe.k12.tn.us or call 423-420-9678. Student-athletes are asked to wear their sports uniforms on the day of the event and will gain service hours for their time.

“We need help the entire week of this event. Teams or players can even sign up to volunteer in shifts,” said Mason. “And, this is a win-win for participants and athletes. Every child needs a positive role model and someone to look up to or aspire to be. Who better than our very own student athletes? Our community is blessed with a lot of talent. Kids need to see that hard work pays off and that they can dream big. You can be anything you want to be.”

Jacky Jones Ford in Sweetwater will also be having a Lincoln Day event at High Fives and School Supplies. For every person who test drives a vehicle during this event, Ford Motor Company will make a donation to the High Fives and School Supplies event. You must be 18 years old or older with a valid driver’s license and valid automobile insurance to test drive a vehicle.

“It’s a really great day for everyone involved,” said Wheeler. “One of my favorite days of the year!”

Madisonville Primary School is located at 268 Warren St. in Madisonville.

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