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Pencil in a tax break on supplies for school

Brightly colored notebooks. Hello Kitty folders. Dinosaur-shaped lunchboxes.

Store shelves are sporting school supplies in abundance these days. But the costs of those pencils, backpacks, highlighters and calculators add up fast.

This year, the average family will spend nearly $700 to stock up for the school year, according to the National Retail Federation.

And Huntington Bank’s “backpack index” found that many parents will spend 20 percent more this year for school supplies than they did last year.

Adding to the expense for parents is the cost of dressing children for school.

With costs rising, parents are scrambling for ways to save money. This weekend, Virginia’s annual tax-free weekend will offer an opportunity for bargains.

Throughout the state, many items of clothing, shoes and school supplies are exempt from sales taxes Friday through Sunday, saving families a little more than 5 percent. For school supplies the exemption is for items priced at $20 or less. For clothing and shoes, the exemption is for items priced $100 or less.

But for many area families, school supplies still remain out of reach.

A bevy of school supply drives will collect items for families who are homeless or who can’t afford the typical supplies.

These drives hope to give local students a jump start on the school year, while minimizing the effects of poverty on their education.

Ways to help include:

YMCA’s Bright Beginnings hopes to help at least 55 King George students with school supplies, backpacks and clothes.

The effort especially needs money, volunteer shoppers and backpacks filled with supplies from local school lists.

To help, go online to or email

Stafford County Public Schools’ Collect for Kids efforts seeks school supplies such as backpacks, pencils, three-ring binders, glue, composition notebooks, drafting kits, paper, spiral notebooks, index cards, flash drives and more.

Donation locations include the Porter and England Run libraries, as well as Chick-fil-A restaurants on Dunn Drive and International Parkway. For details, visit

A Stuff the Bus drive will benefit homeless students in Spotsylvania. Donations of supplies such as crayons, pencils, notebooks, backpacks and more can be dropped off at the Southpoint Walmart on Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Freedom Assembly of God in Spotsylvania will give away school supplies on Aug. 16. To donate backpacks and supplies, call 540/840-4404 or 540/548-3022.

School Dressing Days will give away new clothes and backpacks starting Aug. 8. To help, bring new backpacks and clothes to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1710 Bragg Road, on the mornings of Aug. 7–9.

Stafford Junction hopes to help about 200 students with supplies. The organization needs supplies and money.

To help, email

To find more opportunities to help local students get ready for school, visit the Doing Good blog at

Amy Umble: 540/735-1973