Jackson County United Way needs community volunteers to step up and help collect school supplies this weekend in Seymour.

The opportunity is a great way for families and people of all ages to get involved and help children start school with the basic supplies needed to be prepared to learn, said Bonita Dobbs, United Way program manager.

So far about 150 people have signed up to be a part of the Rock’n Ready program.

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“Jackson County is wonderful in answering the call to action,” she said. “We have families and friends signing up, small businesses and larger corporations and many individuals who have contacted us to volunteer. It is a great opportunity for families and friends to come together to make an impact in their community.”

Volunteers also are needed to assist with unloading, sorting and counting supplies July 20, setting up for distribution July 29 and helping during the distribution event July 30.

Dobbs said it’s easy to participate and that no special skills are needed.

Collection volunteers stand outside Walmart’s two front entrances, greet shoppers and ask them to consider helping the cause by purchasing at least one item on the list of needed supplies.

After they are done shopping, they can leave the item with volunteers and all collected supplies will be distributed during the annual Rock’n Ready event July 30.

“Our committee has worked with the four school districts in asking teachers what their top needs are,” Dobbs said.

That list includes backpacks, notebook paper, crayons, pencil boxes, folders, pencils and pens, scissors, rulers and glue.

“Some families must save all summer to stock their children’s backpacks with all the necessary items and this adds up in a hurry, especially in households where there are two, three or more children,” Dobbs said. “Rock’n Ready is a collaboration of organizations whose goal is to ensure an increased number of children throughout Jackson County will have school supplies.”

Sponsors of this year’s event include Kremers Urban Pharmaceuticals, German American Bank, Central Christian Church, Cummins Inc., Jackson County Dental and Schneck Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Jackson Lodge 146 Free and Accepted Masons, Seymour Schools National Honor Society, Integrity Mortgage, Family Medical Center, JCB and Anthem Medicaid.

“All of our sponsors and volunteers are invested in our children to ensure they are prepared to learn from the moment they enter school on that first day,” Dobbs said.

People also may make cash donations to support Rock’n Ready or write a check to JCUW with school supplies written on the memo line.

The goal this year is to make sure every child who needs a backpack and basic school supplies receives them, Dobbs said.

More than $17,400 worth of supplies were collected and distributed last year.

That means more than 750 children received new supplies and remaining items were divided and sent to schools throughout the county so students could have access to them throughout the academic year, Dobbs said.

The school supply drive began in 2009 and was then known as Stuff the Bus. Supplies were given to school principals who helped distribute them during the school year.

Changes to the drive were made when Dylan Purlee, former Seymour-Redding Elementary principal, shared information about a program from a different county where students were able to pick out their own supplies.

The first Rock’n Ready event in Jackson County was conducted in 2013. It allowed children the opportunity to pick out a backpack and supplies they wanted.

This year’s Rock’n Ready distribution event July 30 will be bigger and better than before, Dobbs said, with a whole day of planned activities dedicated to supporting children.

The event will start with the Rock’n Run 5K run/walk and 10K run at 8 a.m. at Seymour High School. This year’s theme is Run Like a Rock Star and participants are encouraged to dress up like their favorite music star.

To register for the run/walk, visit indianatiming.com.

After the run, students will be able to pick out their school supplies and participate in the Rock’n Ready community festival with live music, games, activities and information booths.

Only families registered to receive supplies will be able to participate in the distribution. They will receive a post card sometime during the week of July 25 with their designated time to shop for their supplies.

“It’s important for the families to come at the scheduled time to allow individuals to move smoothly through the lines,” Dobbs said.

Families may still register to receive free school supplies through Rock’n Ready by calling 211 from a landline or 812-376-6666 from a cellphone. The deadline to register is Friday.

There is no income qualification needed and no child will be turned away, she said.

At a glance

To be a volunteer for the Rock’n Ready school supply drive this weekend at Walmart in Seymour call Bonita Dobbs at 812-522-5450 or email bonita@jacsy.org.

One hour shifts are available Saturday, 3 to 4 p.m., 4 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m. and Sunday, 10 to 11 a.m., 11 a.m. to noon, noon to 1 p.m., 3 to 4 p.m., 6 to 7 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m.

Families may still register to receive free school supplies through Rock’n Ready by calling 211 from a landline or 812-376-6666 from a cell phone. The deadline to register is Friday.

To register for the Rock’n Run 5K run/walk and 10K run, visit www.indianatiming.com.

January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.