ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -

JCP Cares, a community charity organization in northwest St. Johns County, is partnering with the St. Johns County School District homeless program for its summer initiative.

The nonprofit is holding a collection drive to provide backpacks stocked with an assortment of supplies for homeless students to take with them at the end of the school year.

There are 555 students in the district who qualify for this homeless program. That number is up from 493 homeless students last year.

"We don't hesitate for a minute to wash our hair with shampoo. These students don't have that opportunity," said Chamane Williams, of the St. Johns County School District. "We don't think for one moment about soap, sanitary items. These children struggle day in and day out."

Over the last four years, the homeless population in the St. Johns County schools has increased by more than 100 percent.

"Parents need to realize their students are going to schools with kids who didn't have breakfast, students who don't have adequate clothing," Williams said.

Bridgett Van Landingham, a local business owner, is encouraging others to give from their hearts.

"It pretty much goes through the whole system and all grades," she said. "I watch these kids beg for a place to sleep. How can they worry about school when they are worried about surviving?"

Donors are to the collection drive are encouraged to sponsor backpacks for $20. Backpacks can be filled with any of the following items:

- Books
- Craft items or kits
- Coloring books
- Crayons
- Coupons for McDonalds, etc.
- Non perishable food items
- Drawing paper or pads
- Sunscreen
- Colored pencils/markers
- Bubbles
- Puzzle books
- Small balls
- Yo-yo's
- Jump ropes
- Handheld games/toys
- Playing cards
- Card games
- Water colors
- Frisbees
- Beach balls

All items need to be collected by Tuesday and dropped off at any of the following locations:

- The UPS Store, 52 Tuscan Way, Suite 202
- Palencia Real Estate, 605 Palencia Club Dr.
- Pinch-A-Penny, 3055 County Road 210 W., Suite 103
- First Florida Credit Union, 1950 C.R. 210 W.
- Greenbriar Animal Hospital, 1004 State Road 13
- Pinch-A-Penny, 625 S.R. 13
- Mr. Ray's Barbershop, 445 S.R. 13, Suite 23
- The UPS Store, 450 S.R. 13 N., Suite 106
- Panache, 2758-401 Race Track Rd.
- VyStar Credit Union, 101 Bartram Oaks Walk

For donations contact JCP CARES online, by phone or by mailing:
www.jcpcares.org
904-655-1040
450-106 State Road 13 N. No. 165
St. Johns FL 32259