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United Way calls for volunteers to pack 13,000 back-to-school kits

The United Way of Henderson County is seeking support from across the community for the fifth annual Day of Action, taking place virtually across the county to help Henderson County Public Schools students and staff get back to in-person learning safely.

United Way is spearheading an effort to fund and assemble 13,000 Back to School hygiene kits in preparation for the start of in-person learning later this month. Each kit will include hand sanitizer, masks, and helpful handouts about how students and their families can stay safe while at school or at home.

Sponsored by Pardee UNC Health Care and in partnership with HCPS, Day of Action is traditionally a county-wide morning of service to help our local schools get ready for the upcoming school year. Last year, over 500 volunteers came together on 22 HCPS campuses to complete service projects. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Day of Action has shifted to just one project that allows for safe and socially-distanced volunteering by the community, in support of all HCPS students.
‘United Way is committed to assisting our local schools as they are operating with new costs and severely stretched budgets,” said UWHC Executive Director Denise Cumbee Long. “HCPS has alerted us that many of our students and their families lack essential items - masks, hand sanitizer, and information about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Families will need these hygiene items and comprehensive information about how to stay safe, and our schools are the best way to reach families with school-aged children.”
"A safe return to school, even in a hybrid remote and in-person model, will help ensure our students can continue their learning, receive needed nutrition, increase access to behavioral health services, and re-engage with their peers in a positive setting," Associate Superintendent for Administrative Services and incoming Superintendent Dr. John Bryant said. "We know that many of our families have been experiencing increased challenges since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources like these Back to School Kits will be critical tools in preparing students for a healthy return to campus, while reducing risk of COVID-19 transmission."

Volunteers are needed to help assemble sets of 100 kits, and the community is asked to donate funds for the purchase of materials in each kit. Individuals and organizations can sponsor one kit for $5, an entire classroom for $125, or any amount they choose. Pardee UNC Health Care is continuing their support as the lead sponsor for this annual event and Pisgah Health Foundation has awarded a grant that will be put towards the total cost of supplies.
“We are proud to join with United Way to mobilize community resources and make Day of Action happen in a different way this year," Pardee CEO Jay Kirby said. "We recognize that volunteers currently cannot gather at the schools to mulch, paint hallways and prepare for students to return, but that doesn’t mean students don’t need our help. By equipping each student with a hygiene kit, we can make a positive impact on the health of our students and teachers."
Individual bottles of hand sanitizer for the 13,000 kits will be donated by local herbal products manufacturer Gaia Herbs. Sets of reusable cloth masks to fit middle and high schoolers were acquired through FEMA's free mask distribution. Smaller sized masks for elementary students, as well as bags and print materials, will be purchased with money raised through the Day of Action mobile site.
Community members who want to volunteer and/or donate funds can do so easily by texting ACTION to 71777 or by visiting United Way’s website at, and clicking “Day of Action” on the homepage.
Direct questions to Malisia Wilkins at or 828-692-1636 x1108.