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More than 1,000 children assisted during Project Apple Tree

By Melany Cox
Journal Reporter

More than one thousand BISD students received free school supplies during Project Apple Tree’s Distribution Day. Project Apple Tree is a faith-based community-wide organization that works through Helping Hands Ministry.
Distribution Day took place Monday at First Baptist Church in Belton. Each student was pre-registered and received a bag of school supplies, a hygiene kit, a dental packet and a brand new outfit.
Jeannette Kelley, founder of Project Apple Tree, said they began serving clients at 9 a.m., but when she arrived at 7 a.m. a long line had already formed.

“One client told me she had been there since 5:30 a.m.,” Kelley said.
Each child was given a number based on the order they arrived in. Once their number was called, a volunteer would guide them and their parents to the different stations.
The first station was set up by Belton Police Department. The officers spoke with the children and their families and provided them with ident-a-kits.
At the next station children had the option of taking a booklet about Jesus. Then they were led to the backpack station. Each student was allowed to select their own backpack.
Finally, helpers would locate the bags of school supplies and clothes that corresponded with each student’s pre-assigned Apple Tree number. Volunteers helped carry the parcels to the clients’ cars.
Two nurses from the Bell County Health Department also participated by making sure the students’ immunization records were up to date.
Kelley said the entire process might be slow, but it works very well.
“It’s really smooth and orderly,” she said. “I’m sorry that people have to wait out in the heat, but many of them brought their own lawn chairs.”
Kelley said 1,350 children were registered to receive supplies this year. She said they were able to provide bags for every single child and Project Apple Tree was almost fully funded.
Donations to Project Apple Tree can be made through Helping Hands Ministry.
Sara Hector coordinated the volunteers for Distribution Day. She estimated they would have 225 adult volunteers by the end of the day, in addition to “bunches and bunches” of teenagers.
These volunteers completed numerous tasks, including running the tables, guiding the families through the stations, manning the doors and taking bags to the cars.
“Everybody does it with such great sprit,” Hector said.
Photos depicting the stages of Project Apple Tree are on display on the Helping Hands website.
Matt McBurney, Ben Jones and Joel Hardin served as teen volunteers. McBurney worked as a floor runner, fetching the boxes of clothes and supplies and bringing them to the clients. He said he volunteered because he thought it was the right thing to do.
Hardin was also a floor runner. He said he decided to volunteer because it would be a good opportunity to serve the community.
All three boys said there were memorable moments throughout the day.
Hardin said the kids were excited after receiving their backpack and supplies and McBurney said he saw kids leave with a smile.
One client wanted to thank the people who made Project Apple Tree Distribution Day possible.
“Thank you very much,” she said. “That’s all I can say.”