Voluntary Action Center hopes tax-holiday shoppers will remember needy

Friday, August 7, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A sales tax exemption this weekend promises to send shoppers in search of back-to-school supplies, and the Voluntary Action Center hopes they will fill backpacks for children in need as well.

The center wants to fill 1,600 backpacks supplied by HealthCare USA. Some of the items needed most are notebooks, folders, binders, highlighters, markers, pens, scissors, calculators, glue sticks and protractors.

The Voluntary Action Center is working with other organizations to collect school supplies for the third annual “Stuff the Bus” drive.

“Many children in our area go back to school with inadequate school supplies or no supplies at all because their families can’t afford them,” Cindy Mustard, executive director of the Voluntary Action Center, said in a statement.

"The drive is held to get kids the school supplies they need to be successful in school," Mustard said in an interview. “We appreciate what all the community is doing and has done to help, and we thank you."

This year's drive coincides with the state's Back to School Sales Tax Holiday. The first Friday in August marks the beginning of the three-day weekend designed to help people save money while shopping for school supplies.

Items included in the exemption are: school supply purchases less than $50; clothing items valued at less than $100, including footwear but not accessories such as jewelry, handbags or scarves; personal computers and other computer devices valued at less than $3,500; and computer software valued at less than $350.

Columbia and Boone County have opted out of the holiday, so shoppers will still have to pay local tax but will be exempted from the 4.225 percent state tax rate.

Items collected at the "Stuff the Bus" drive will be put in the backpacks and distributed at a community-wide health fair geared toward low-income families. It will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 15 at Calvary Baptist Church, 606 Ridgeway Ave.

Donations can be brought to the three Columbia Walmarts until Sunday or to the Voluntary Action Center next week at 800 N. Providence Road.

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