'Christmas in July' hopes to help kids get new clothes to start school

'Christmas in July' hopes to help kids get new clothes to start school

BRISTOL, Va. - It's only the beginning of July, but some parents are already starting to plan for buying school supplies and clothes for their kids.

Some parents say the prices keep rising and it's getting more difficult to get everything they need, but one organization is hoping to ease the burden for some families with a program called Christmas in July.

School supplies are starting to fill the shelves at stores. Pencils, notebooks, crayons, markers -- there is so much for parents to buy before the school year begins. "You spend all this time looking at the different stores, trying to get the cheapest price. Then halfway through the school year the markers dry up or the crayons have broken, and you're just re-buying them again," says mom Christina Wheeler.

Wheeler says the amount starts to add up with school supplies alone, without even thinking about buying clothes for kids to start school in. "They grow a lot so the clothes you're trying to buy what they need now what they need in a few weeks from now what they might need in a few months from now," she said.

That's where Community in Schools in Southwest Virginia is hoping to help. Executive Director of the organization, Sam McKinney, is starting Christmas in July.

This year it's serving Bristol, Virginia Schools and Chilhowie Elementary, Middle, and High Schools. "We don't actually use a child's name, but a number that will allow that person to buy for that child. They bring it back, and it basically works like the Angel Tree they do at Christmas," adds McKinney.

Their focus is on clothes: two tops, two bottoms, underclothes, and a pair of socks is about $35 for an elementary school student, and we figured it would be double that for a high school student.

McKinney says schools have identified children in need. In Bristol there are 150 kids on the list; in Chilhowie there are 66. Some still need to be adopted. "We've asked the child what colors they like, not only the sizes but what style of clothes they like. There is no use in buying something for a child if they're not going to wear it," he said.

McKinney is hoping this program will help kids fit in so they can focus on learning instead of what they don't have.  

To underscore the level of need, we discovered that 65 percent of kids in Bristol, Virginia schools are on the free or reduced-price lunch program.

If you would like to help, you can contact the Bristol, Virginia Schools Office at (276) 821-5600 and ask for Sam McKinney.

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