A flyer advertising the most needed school items sits in the bottom of a bin at Keister Elementary School. Harrisonburg High School junior Maya Waid launched a virtual school supply drive to benefit Keister as well as Smithland Elementary School.

While she was volunteering to hand out meals on Tuesdays, Harrisonburg High School junior Maya Waid noticed the need for food and supplies had grown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic caused parents to lose their jobs at a time when they are also being tasked with overseeing their children’s virtual schooling. Waid wanted to do something to help.

“I just thought there had to be more that I could do, especially during COVID,” she said.

In-person events and drives not being the safest option at the moment, Waid decided to do the most common thing during this time — host a school supply drive virtually.

Before she launched the supply drive, she got the green light from Harrisonburg City Public Schools Superintendent Michael Richards and City Councilman Sal Romero, who is director of equality and community engagement for the school division.

Waid decided her first effort would be on behalf of Smithland and Keister elementary schools. Between the two schools there are over 1,000 students. Waid coordinated with Principals Janis Churchill and Mark Miller, respectively.

Using Amazon Wish List, Waid compiled a list of needed items, such as dry-erase markers and pencils and exercise equipment, such as jump ropes, kick balls and hula hoops.

“It didn’t occur to me that they might need items to keep students active,” Waid said.

She posted the link to the Wish List on her social media accounts and shared it with family and friends nationwide. Without the need to leave the house or be anywhere near Harrisonburg, the response has been great, Waid said.

She’s had 44 Amazon deliveries of supplies and over $700 sent to her via Venmo for her to purchase supplies as well. For those who are going into the schools, there are also drop-off stations at Keister and Smithland. But the supply drive is focused on keeping things virtual.

The supply drive launched right before Christmas and will continue until Feb. 1. From there, principals will distribute the supplies to those in need of them.

“The school supplies that are donated to Keister help the students better engage with the virtual learning that is taking place,” Miller said. “All students having the supplies they need is the first step in having a positive virtual learning environment, and we are so grateful for all the donations that are coming to our school.”

Churchill said educators, including physical education teachers, have been creative in helping students use what is around their houses to participate.

“For instance they’d, say, roll up a pair of socks and use it as a beanbag,” Churchill said. “But when we realized it’s going to be longer than we thought, we wanted to make sure to get supplies in the hands of students.”

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or Follow Megan on Twitter @DNR_Learn

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