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Organizations plan school supply drives

COVINGTON - Dozens of organizations in Newton and Rockdale counties are joining together this summer to prepare students for school and help those in need of school supplies.

"We look forward to providing school supplies to families in need this year," said Mike Hutcheson, event coordinator for the fifth annual Praise in the Park. "In the past, we have assisted between 500 and 600 families, and this year we anticipate a greater amount because of the economy."

Praise in the Park will start at 10 a.m. Saturday and last until all of the school supplies are gone, which will probably be around noon or 1 p.m., he said.

Families in Newton and Rockdale counties can show up to the former Maxell building, located at 1400 Parker Road in Conyers, to get general school supplies, which were donated by several area churches, organizations and businesses. The event also offers student dental, vision and hearing screenings.

Because of the expected crowd, Praise in the Park is looking for more donations and sponsors of the event. Items can be dropped off at Lifechurch, located 3130 Salem Road in Conyers, or by 9 a.m. Saturday morning at the Parker Road location. Interested donors can reach Hutcheson at 770-787-0486.

· The City of Covington also will hold a school supplies giveaway for needy families and a celebration for all from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday on the Square in Covington.

"The event started (last year) because we noticed the start of the school year was so early, and people were not exactly enthused about that," said Josephine Kelly, director of Main Street Covington. "We wanted to have something where we could start the school year off with a bang and get the students back on track."

Last year, she estimated about 3,000 people were in attendance.

The event will feature food, inflatables, face painting and other entertainment. Organizations will have booths set up around the Square, and students can participate in contests. The Newton Rams football team also will be on hand to help run the event.

Those families in need of school supplies will register with the Washington Street Community Center at the beginning of the event and receive their supplies by the end of the night.

"It's great because people truly appreciate that, and those who don't need supplies get to participate in the other activities," Kelly said.

About 30 organizations already have helped to organize and stock the event; others can sign up by calling Main Street Covington at 770-385-2077.

· Jesus and Me Worldwide Ministries Christian Church and other sponsors will hold its third annual Back-to-School Giveaway at 5 p.m. Sunday at the A.R. Gus Barksdale Boys & Girls Club, located at 1015 O'Kelly St. in Conyers.

Families who are interested in receiving school supplies like bookbags filled with folders, notebooks, paper, pencils and gift cards that evening must preregister by submitting a form online at www.jwmchurch.org or at the club.

More information about the event is available by calling the club at 770-922-7402.

· The Newton County NAACP also is helping area students by donating school supplies for about 70 needy students, whom they have already contacted. The organization's Youth Advisor Cathelene Perry will have the students and their families at her home this week to give them school supplies, have two ministers and a licensed tutor talk to them and provide them with lunch, ice cream and other entertainment and games.

· Teachers aren't being left out of the back-to-school giveaways, either. Staples in Conyers is holding its annual Teacher Appreciation Day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2. The first 200 teachers in the building, located at 1550 Dogwood Drive in Conyers, will receive raffle prizes and a flash drive giveaway; teachers also will be able to preview new products and services at Staples.

"A tough economy and tighter budgets mean teachers are spending more of their own money to keep their classrooms stocked," said Shira Goodman, executive vice presented of marketing for Staples in a press release. "Teacher Appreciation Day is our way of letting teachers know how much they are valued and to make it easy for them to have the supplies they need to do their jobs."

Teachers also can enroll in the Staples Teacher Rewards program, in which teachers can earn 2 percent back in rewards and earn rewards for recycling ink and toner cartridges, among other opportunities.

More information is available at www.staples.com/teacherday.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: If you go

2008 Back-to-School Giveaways

· What: Back 2 School Block Party

· When: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday

· Where: Downtown Covington Square

· For more information: Call Main Street Covington at 770-385-2077

· What: Praise in the Park

· When: 10 a.m. Saturday

· Where: 1400 Parker Road, Conyers (former Maxwell Corporation)

· For more information: 770-787-0486

· What: Jesus and Me Worldwide Ministries Back-to-School Giveaway

· When: 5 p.m. Sunday

· Where: A.R. Gus Barksdale Boys & Girls Club, 1015 O'Kelly St., Conyers

· For more information: Preregister by Friday by visiting the club or at www.jwmchurch.org; 770-922-7402

· What: Staples Teacher Appreciation Day

· When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 2

· Where: Staples, 1550 Dogwood Drive, Conyers

· For more information: www.staples.com/teacherday