Long before dawn last Wednesday, hundreds of families began lining up at the Ingles Toy Store at Westgate Shopping Center waiting for the doors to open. As some of the children stretched out on the walkway with their blankets and pillows, the staff, some board members, and volunteers of Eblen Charities set up the final details to be ready for what would become one of the busiest days in Eblen Charities history.

These wonderful families were not in line in front of the Ingles Toy Store to prepare for the coming of St. Nick, but rather to get their children prepared for the start of the new school year. With the start of school this Monday, students from kindergarten to their last year in high school, will be focusing on making sure they have everything they need for class as they begin the new year.

In most cases that means shopping with their parents for notebooks, paper, pencils, rulers, and dozens of other things on their supply lists. But for just as many students the beginning of the school year is not something they look forward to, but one that they and their families worry about as the first day of school draws near. In these difficult times many, unlike many of their friends, won’t be starting the new school year with new supplies their classmates have; in fact, many of them were looking at starting classes with nothing at all.

Eblen Charities has been fortunate to have been a part of many wonderful and amazing events throughout the years in an effort to serve the children, adults, and families in our community in times of need. But this year’s Ingles Tools for Schools Campaign proved to be, for the eighth consecutive year, one of the most amazing events in Buncombe County history.

Beginning at 4:30 AM on Wednesday, August 15th and running until 7:00 PM, the generosity of the people in western North Carolina once again came to the forefront as hundreds of individuals, families, companies and organizations rallied to join Ingles Markets, WLOS-TV, the Asheville Citizen-Times, iHeart Radio, Biltmore Church,Great Beginnings / Great Smiles, and the Asheville Kiwanis Club, in dropping off school supplies, monetary donations, snacks, and food for the weekend back pack program raising nearly 50% more than last year. This past week we saw the second part of the Tools for Schools event as hundreds of families began lining up early Wednesday morning at the Eblen Charities Waddell Client Service Center at Westgate to ensure that their children would have the school supplies that they needed to begin school this week. But thanks to the Eblen Staff and more than 100 volunteers, and the hundreds of companies, organizations, families, and individuals who donated to Tools for Schools, no one left empty-handed. This year the Ingles Pharmacy / Eblen Immunization Project again provided immunizations, flu shots, and wellness check ups

“Each year as school starts, a great number of the families we have the pleasure to serve have to face an additional burden of having to find extra money to provide their children with the supplies they need to begin the school year,” states Bill Murdock, executive director of Eblen Charities. “ But once again, our community has joined together and reached out so every child can get what they need not only at the beginning of school but throughout the school year. We can never thank everyone enough for their kindness and to Ingles, WLOS, and iHeart radio, and the Asheville Citizen-Times in putting this amazing event together.”

Our heartfelt thanks to Bobby Ingle, Jim Lanning, Tom Outlaw, Melissa Levell, and everyone from Ingles Markets; Joe Fishleigh, Lauren Brigman, John Le, and all involved from WLOS; and to Josh Michaels, Eddie Foxx, Brian Hall, Caroline Early, Mark Starling, Pete Kaliner, Sharon Greene, and all from iHeart Radio, the Asheville Citizen-Times, the staff and volunteers of Eblen Charities, and everyone who joined us by donating to Tools for Schools for showing the true heart of our community.

If you didn’t have a chance to drop by Ingles for the Tools for Schools drive and would still like to donate, please bring your school supplies or any donation to the Eblen Charities Waddell Client Service Center at 50 Westgate Parkway in the Westgate Shopping Center, Monday-Friday from 8 AM – 5 PM.

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