Hugs Across the County collects school supplies for local students in need

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Local nonprofit Hugs Across the County is holding a school supply drive throughout the month of July to assist and raise awareness for St. Johns County students in need.

“Hugs,” which received its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status earlier this year, works closely with the St. Johns County School District to confidentially identify children in need of assistance and provide them with basic necessities, such as food, shoes, clothing and now school supplies.

“There are needs in all schools in the county, including our own schools here in Ponte Vedra,” said Brette Reiman, the organization’s director. “According to the St. Johns County School District ASSIST program, there were 895 students considered homeless last year.

There are thousands more who are not considered homeless, but who are living in poverty. When children don’t have the supplies that others have, they are embarrassed, they are even teased, and they cannot focus on learning. It is our goal to help level the playing field for these great kids.”

According to Reiman, needs throughout the county have only increased in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, with some families having to choose between purchasing school supplies for their children and feeding them. To assist those in need, Hugs is now seeking help from the local community.

“We are hoping to partner with businesses, civic organizations, neighborhood groups, faith-based organizations, sports teams, book clubs, you name it, to be collection points for school supplies,” Reiman said. “We are very grateful to Merrill Lynch Wealth Management's Ponte Vedra offices, who have already agreed to collect supplies.”

Donations received will be presented to students in need throughout the St. Johns County School District, and some will also be contributed towards the Investing in Kids (INK) “Tools 4 Schools” program, which aims at reducing the cost of classroom school supplies for educators.

In addition to its supplies drive, Hugs is also planning an upcoming initiative to provide weekend food to students at Gamble Rogers Middle School in St. Augustine. The organization is currently looking for volunteers to assist with shopping, as well as collecting and packing food donations.

“The needs in our county are overwhelming,” said Reiman, “and it definitely takes a village to help local students.”

For more information about Hugs Across the County and its community outreach initiatives, email info@stjohnshugs.org or call (904) 580-HUGS.

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