This is the week. School doors open, and students start to file in for classes. In the old days, bells would ring. Now there simply is a lot of buzz.

First up is Martinsville, then Patrick County and finally Henry County. By next Monday, the streets and roads will be scrambled with commuting parents and yellow buses as our familiar transformation takes place.

Teachers’ meetings and open houses have been under way or scheduled, and the get-to-know, reacquainting process is ongoing.

But it’s not as if this entire rush hasn’t been going on for quite a while. There’s always much to do before the first teacher says the first “good morning” to a student.

First there are the sometimes daunting, expensive and detail oriented lists of supplies that students are required to have in their back. Then there are health screenings and spiffing up and just helping a child put forth his or her best foot and be prepared.

There are numerous organizations who line up to help with all of that.

For many parents, looking at a single list of school supplies for one child can be daunting. Having to purchase everything from binders to pencils to backpacks adds up quickly.

Many homes in Martinsville and Henry County have more than one child, which means they often double or triple the school supply list – and the cost.

More than supplies

Lots of organizations offer help with that. The Back2School group lines up thousands to get backpacks full of supplies. But it isn’t the only one this year.

The Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness will host two special events, one on Tuesday at Bassett Family Practice and one on Wednesday at Ridgeway Family Health, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Students will enjoy free activities, play fun brain games with the new behavioral health provider, Alisa Branch, meet the new pediatric nurse practitioner Kaila Haskins, learn about healthy snacks and much more.

“We’re going to have different stations set up in front of each office,” said Samantha Staples, office manager at Ridgeway Family Health. “Each table will be something different.”

When kids finish going through the stations, they will have the opportunity to sign up for a wellness checkup or a school physical.

“Well-checks are important for a couple of reasons. You want to make sure they’re hitting their milestones and that they’re current on their immunizations,” Staples said. “A lot of times after a certain point, around three or four, parents don’t think they really need to do a physical every year, but they really do. Otherwise, they may have issues going on that you don’t know about until they’re bad.”

Children who sign up for a checkup or school physical before the beginning of the school year will receive a backpack filled with supplies from the doctor’s office.

For those unable to schedule an appointment or for students who did not register for the Back2School event, the state tax-free weekend helped people in Virginia purchase items such as like emergency preparedness gear, qualifying school supplies, clothing and footwear will be available with no tax added on at the register.

Outside help

While some people enjoy the hustle and bustle of a brick-and-mortar store, others prefer ordering supplies online. For the tech savvy parents and grandparents, a website called TeacherLists provides classroom supply lists for a variety of participating schools.

As of Thursday, the site listed supplies needed for students at Carlisle School, Clearview Early Childhood Center, GW Carver Elementary School, Laurel Park Middle School, Martinsville High School, Martinsville Middle School, Mount Olivet Elementary School, Patrick Henry Elementary School and Rich Acres Elementary School.

Once adults locate their students’ school, all they have to do is pick a retailer – such as Target, Walmart or Amazon, for example – and the site automatically adds the order to the store’s online cart. If certain items are unavailable, the site informs the purchaser. The person adding items to the cart can also adjust the quantity of each of the goods and customize the order with additional wares. The buyer may also choose whether or not to have the items shipped or pick them up in person at a local store.

About the appearance

In the craze of getting kids’ school supplies, clothing, footwear, electronics and other necessary items, parents sometimes overlook another important aspect of getting ready for school – a fresh, new look. One local stylist looks to change that this year.

On Tuesday, Lorena Cook, owner of the Ultimate Performance School of Cosmetology in Martinsville, will offer free haircuts to students living in single-parent homes who set up an appointment.

“I wanted to give back to the community the best way I knew how,” Cook said. “I wanted to give an opportunity because parents give out of money when they’re trying to get their kids back to school. The hair on their head is the last thing they think about, but that is the first thing I think about because that’s what I do.”

With 33 years of experience in cosmetology, Cook saw giving free haircuts as a way to not only help set children up for a successful school year, but also as a way to help her own students learn. Young men who make an appointment will have their hair cut by one of Cook’s talented cosmetology students.

“We’re filling appointments,” Cook said. “I think we’ve got about four so far.”

Beyond a cut, Cook and her team will also style the students’ hair.

“We’re doing everything but relaxers,” Cook said.

Preparing students for their first day of school, a new look could make all the difference in a child’s confidence as they walk through the doors.

“It just builds their self-esteem to go in there and feel good about what they look like,” Cook said.

Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the special free student haircut day, Ultimate Performance encourages those seeking appointments for their children to call ahead for a time at 276-666-4472.

Back2School for the masses

And then there is the Back2School program led by the Community Fellowship in Martinsville, which on Saturday provided children backpacks filled with supplies completely free of charge.

With the average classroom necessities topping $100 in Martinsville and Henry County according to average-priced items from released local school supply lists, people came together to gather some of the most frequently used items.

“They come from everywhere and anywhere,” said Michael Harrison, pastor at the Community Fellowship. “Most of them came from locations, like when we did the Pack the Bus at Walmart. Many of them came from there. And everywhere else, you name it. They came in all kinds of ways, all donated.”

Last week, people packed up the supplies which they then distributed to 15 participating churches in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. Harrison praised the hard work put in by volunteers of many different Christian faiths who passed out the backpacks.

“The biggest thing about it is we have all these churches, all these organizations that get together for this one purpose,” Harrison said. “When you look at the different churches, you have Methodists and Baptists and Presbyterians, Lutherans, the whole gamut. Everybody comes together for the same purpose and nobody is getting the glory, so to speak. All this is about serving kids and sharing hope with those kids, not about making our church or another church famous, so to speak.”

While the school supplies drew the students to the Back2School event, volunteers and pastors also offered words of encouragement to families in need.

“Our church is called to meet needs and to serve people and that’s all this does. It meets a need in the lives of students and their families and that’s why we do this,” Harrison said. “As we meet needs, we’re giving people hope. We’re sharing with them, not just meeting their need, how to be stronger in life and better educated.”

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