United Way Middle School Coalition hosting uniform drive for Vicksburg, Warren County students

Published 1:30 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The United Way of West Central Mississippi’s Middle School Coalition is conducting a uniform drive to benefit area public and private school students and fight chronic absenteeism.

Dr. Susie Calbert, who heads the Middle School Coalition and also serves as executive director of the City of Vicksburg’s Youth Development Center, said her group identified uniforms as a tool to fight truancy approximately 18 months ago.

“What we found with our school attendance subcommittee is that, as kids reconvene in the classroom setting, there are prevalent issues with truancy,” Calbert said. “Through talking with (community leaders) we found that a lack of uniforms is one of the factors that contribute to truancy, and we felt the need to work with each other to see how we can help truant behaviors.

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“We brainstormed and decided to start this uniform drive to see how we can help our community and both public and private middle school students.”

At the end of the 2022-23 school year, United Way Executive Director Michele Connelly said her agency approached principals at the Vicksburg Warren School District, Vicksburg Catholic School and Porter’s Chapel Academy and requested donations of gently used uniforms.

Volunteers with the Middle School Coalition and United Way are in the process of washing the uniforms and sorting them for redistribution to area schools to help establish free uniform closets for students in need.

“There are so many things we can put in place to ensure our children are successful, and the Vicksburg Warren School District, Porter’s Chapel and Vicksburg Catholic School are doing a phenomenal job of providing a quality education to students in our community, but we need our students in the seats to receive that quality education,” Connelly said. “That’s why we, as United Way of West Central Mississippi, are doing all we can to support this mission.”

In addition to cleaning uniforms and establishing closets at area schools, Calbert said the second part of the drive’s mission is to encourage members of the community to purchase new uniform pieces for children in need.

The Middle School Coalition created an Amazon shopping list for people who would like to donate online: www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/dl/invite/1YogX6m?ref_=wl_share. All items purchased through the Amazon list will ship directly to United Way of West Central Mississippi, 920 South St.

People who want to deliver new or used uniform donations in-person are asked to donate them at the United Way building or at the Youth Development Center, 2020 Mission 66.

“We’ve received a lot of great feedback and can’t wait to see uniforms arriving at the office,” Connelly said. “Our community does a great job (collecting) school supplies, but I think the uniforms were a gap that Dr. Calbert recognized. This drive is a great way to close that gap.”

Connelly and Calbert said the drive has no deadline and, as seasons change, the Amazon list will be updated to include cold-weather items like cardigans and coats. For more information, visit the United Way of West Central Mississippi’s Facebook page.