More than 45 volunteers met Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Belton to assemble 1,500 school supply kits for low-income Belton ISD students ranging from grades kindergarten through 12th grade.
"When we started 17 years ago, we had about 250 children and we thought that was a lot of kids," Jeannette Kelley, Volunteer Director of Project Apple Tree, said. "This year, we have 1,333 needy children in Belton."
On Monday, August 14, the families who registered their child for Project Apple Tree through the Helping Hands Ministry will pick up a box of goods specifically addressed specifically to their child.
Students will also get to pick out what backpack he or she wants on Monday morning.
Nearly half of the 1,500 boxes were sponsored by someone in the community. Meanwhile, the other half of the kits were dependent on donations to the ministry.
In each box, the student will receive a clothing bag and a school supplies bag, so every student can be prepared for the first day of school.
"The main objective is for the children to start school with everything they need when they show up the first day," Kelley said. "The excitement of the children is just phenomenal."
Each clothing bag includes a pair of jeans, a shirt, a package of underwear, a package of socks, and a pair of shoes specifically meant for the student receiving them. Each school supply bag includes essential items every student needs on his or her first day of school: pencil, pens, erasers, etc.
Project Apple Tree catered to students of all shapes and sizes, such as a 15-year-old boy who required a size 20 shoe, Kelley said. The organization also bought jeans with a waist size as high as 48 inches.
The organization helped 77 special needs kids, who may need pull-ups or diapers, according to Kelley.
"Anything the child needs, the organization is here to provide," Kelley said.
Volunteers from Altrusa International of Temple included a hygiene kit -- a bottle of shampoo, a bar of soap, and a wash cloth -- in every students box. Temple College added to the hygiene kit by donating a tooth brush and tooth paste for each student.
The Altrusa International Temple chapter, the largest chapter in the worldwide non-profit organization, donated their time and money raised from its annual Taste of the Holidays luncheon to Project Apple Tree. Altrusa partnered with Project Apple Tree eight years ago, and have participated ever since.
This is Project Apple Tree's 17th anniversary.
Any and all donations can be made out to Project Apple Tree, P.O. Box 1923 in Belton, Texas.