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It's All About ‘Kids Helping Kids’

Boy Scouts volunteer to help Kids R First provide school supplies to more than 13,000 students this year.

The pizza had just arrived. Slice after slice flew out of boxes, then spent a brief layover on paper plates before a group of about a dozen Boy Scouts devoured them.

Their appetites, nudged and prodded by morning labor, swelled beyond usual limits.

Since 8:30 a.m., the scouts — most from Troop 160 and a few others from Troop 158 — lugged school supplies out of a truck and into Langston Hughes Middle School.

Anything but inchoate, their unloading system was methodical, devised by 14-year-old Matthew Fries as part of his scout project.

“Another truck,” he shouted just after his fellow scouts finished lunch last Tuesday, Aug. 8 around 2 p.m. “Places everybody.”

Fries, who is starting high school at Westfield in the fall, chose his scout project to help Kids R First, a Reston-based non-profit that supplies school materials to students who can’t afford them.

“We’re helping thousands of kids throughout Northern Virginia receive school supplies,” said Fries. “Some families must pick between giving their kids school supplies or paying the rent — and the rent comes first.”

Thanks to Kids R First, Fries points out, as many as 13,000 students won’t have to go without supplies this year.

FOR THE PAST eight years, the volunteer-based organization has supplied materials for students in need, totaling 620,000 units of new school supplies to nearly 60,000 students grades K-12.

“We’re helping 80 schools this year,” said Ginger Seeley, vice president of Kids R First.

Seeley’s two granddaughters, Leah and Brooke McNamara, who were also recruited to help, managed inventory once the scouts transferred the supplies into the middle school’s cafeteria, which became a makeshift warehouse.

For three days last week, the scouts unloaded trucks, emptying and organizing about 117,000 units of supplies.

“They’ve cut the process in half,” said Seeley, thankful for the scouts’ help. “It’s kids helping kids.”

Kids R First, which works all year to raise money for the supplies, buys them at reduced cost from Walmart and Office Depot.

“Some of the deals are so good, you couldn’t do it otherwise,” said Ellen Peebles, secretary of Kids R First.

This year the organization is expected to shell out $50,000 for supplies. “Last year, we spent $45,000,” said Seeley.

The organization raises the money through small individual contributions, often at $20 or $50 donations, and with a fund-raising golf tournament.

For the past few years, Northrup Grumman has donated a truck and driver to deliver the supplies from the stores to Langston Hughes Middle School.

A FORMER ELEMENTARY school teacher with the county, Susan Ungerer, started Kids R First in 1998. Since many people involved with the organization are retired educators, they understand the effect of their work. “We have a lot of kids that literally cry when they get the supplies,” said Seeley, who is in her fifth year with the organization.

The supplies are distributed based on school need. Earlier in the year, schools fill out a checklist to indicate the supplies they want.

Over the next few weeks, representatives from the schools will pick up the supplies they requested.

“What I like about [Kids R First] is that it’s grassroots and the schools tell us what they need,” said Seeley.