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‘The Need Continues’ in Alexandria
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‘The Need Continues’ in Alexandria

Backpacks, school supplies distributed across the city.

Departmental Progressive Club president Merrick Malone, fourth from right, stands with other volunteers as they prepare to distribute more than 4,000 books donated by the literacy nonprofit InspireLit as part of the Aug. 22 back-to-school drive at the Ruby Tucker Family Center.

Departmental Progressive Club president Merrick Malone, fourth from right, stands with other volunteers as they prepare to distribute more than 4,000 books donated by the literacy nonprofit InspireLit as part of the Aug. 22 back-to-school drive at the Ruby Tucker Family Center. Photo by Janet Barnett/Gazette Packet

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Families pick up backpacks and school supplies Aug. 23 outside Oakland Baptist Church as part of a citywide back-to-school drive.

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Staff member Juwahn Brown of the Ruby Tucker Family Center, Keith Pettigrew, CEO of the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority, and Del Badie, another staff member of the center, prepare to assist with the school supplies distribution Aug. 22.

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The family of Rosa and Jack Byrd encourage voter registration Aug. 22 at the Ruby Tucker Family Center.

More than 800 families from across the city turned out to pick up backpacks and school supplies as part of a citywide back-to-school drive Aug. 22 and 23.

“Over the two days, we traveled to five different ARHA locations including Charles Houston Rec Center and Oakland Baptist Church,” said former City Councilman and organizer Willie Bailey. “Members of the Departmental Progressive Club did a great job of maintaining social distancing at the sites and school supplies were pre-sorted and placed in baggies to keep people from touching everything. Whether in person or online, the need continues for so many families.”

Numerous organizations joined forces in organizing the events, including the literacy nonprofit InspireLit, which donated more than 4,000 books for the distribution.

“With the children starting out virtually, we were hoping that we could add some type of normalcy to the start of the school year i.e. new backpacks with school supplies,” Bailey said.

“It is always rewarding to give or assist those in need.”

—Keith Pettigrew, CEO of the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority

Distribution locations included the Charles Houston Recreation Center, the Ruby Tucker Family Center and Oakland Baptist Church.

“The Ice Cream Squad ice cream truck came out and gave away free ice cream at every event over the two days,” Bailey said. “And we were also registering families to vote with the Departmental Progressive Club, stepping up as always with donations and volunteers.”

Despite the long lines, the excitement of families and children was evident as backpacks, school supplies, books and ice cream treats were distributed.

“It is always rewarding to give or assist those in need,” said Keith Pettigrew, CEO of the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority. “It's especially critical during these challenging times in a pandemic. Thanks to the annual effort and leadership of Commissioner Willie Bailey and all the organizations that helped, ARHA was allowed to assist in giving children school supplies and learning materials to begin their school year. The smiles on the kids’ faces said it all.”

Sponsors for the back-to-school drive include: Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority, Departmental Progressive Club, Alexandria Dept. of Recreation and Parks, Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota, InspireLit literacy nonprofit, Firefighters and Friends to the Rescue, The Ice Cream Squad and Oakland Baptist Church.