CHAMPAIGN — The Heavenly Seven, a group of local residents who volunteer in the community, need donations more than ever this year for their annual school supply drive.
In the past, the members have been able to purchase large quantities of school supplies at discounted prices at local retailers.
But this year, retailers are making them stick to limits on how many items they can purchase on sale, said Sandy Lee, who acts as a spokeswoman for the group of men.
That, paired with the recent death of member Lonnie Richardson, is prompting the Heavenly Seven to ask the community to donate school supplies, as well as money and gift certificates to buy items to give to local kids before school starts.
"This is our fifth year and the demand is greater and the supplies happen to be lower at this time," Lee said. "Without donations from the community, we will not be able to do as much as we'd like."
You can drop donations by 613 N. Fourth St., C, or you can mail them to The Heavenly Seven, PO Box 904, Champaign, IL 61820.
The group will give away the school supplies to local kids at 10 a.m. Aug. 18 at the Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center, 1401 E. Main St., U. It's for any local kindergarten through fifth-grade student, and a lunch on the go will be provided as well.
Originally, the Heavenly Seven had been hoping expand to give supplies to middle and high school students, too.
But organizers are worried about even having enough to give the elementary students, so a middle- and high-school giveaway probably won't be possible, Lee said.
"We're behind where we usually are," she said.
Lee said the Heavenly Seven accept gift cards to local retailers that sell school supplies.
They also need book bags, paper, pencils, composition books, notebooks, erasers, markers, rulers, scissors, crayons, flash drives, folders, protractors, epoxy, copy paper, tissues, hand sanitizer, zippered plastic bags and any other school supplies.
Last year, the Heavenly Seven donated supplies to more than 600 children.
"It brightens our day to see the smiles on the faces of children knowing that they can start their school year with everything they need and brand new," said Heavenly Seven secretary Percy McNutt in a news release. "We don't ask for names of families or any personal information. All we ask is that the parents show up with their children and they are able to pick out their very own book bag filled with supplies."