Students at Walker Elementary School in Liberty have one less thing to worry about when preparing for the new school year.

On Sunday, Aug. 23, around 40 students picked up a free backpack brimming with school supplies at the Liberty Fire Station. The effort was sponsored by the Neighbor to Neighbor program started by resident and town Road Commissioner Tammy Reynolds.

Liberty Fire Chief Bill Gillespie said he and his wife, Lisa, purchased 80 backpacks, or one for every student at the school, regardless of whether they were attending remotely or in person. The remaining backpacks were sent to the school in preparation for the start of the year.

With so many things changing, "we wanted to make sure all the kids had plenty of materials," he said. "We have a good core group of people that look out for what the community needs."

In all, Gillespie said, the group collected $1,100 in donations from people in the community who wanted to help the students and families at Walker School. Supplies were also donated and dropped off at the station for the event.

Regional School Unit 3 Superintendent Charles Brown called Gillespie recently to say he was "blown away" by the community outpouring for this event.

Gillespie said the experience took him and his wife back to when they would go school shopping at the end of summer for their own kids, who are grown now.

Included in the backpacks were pencils, pens, erasers, crayons, rulers, a pencil box, water bottle, note pad, glue sticks and pencil sharpeners. Also included was a unique handmade face covering personally made for each student by Cindy Harriman.

Gillespie said the face coverings were a "huge success and the kids loved them." Early on when COVID-19 initially hit, he said, "Cindy asked if she could make Lisa and I a pair of face coverings."

Reynolds asked Harriman, who is also known for her quilts, if she would consider helping in this effort.

Harriman, who has run a day care service in town for many years, said she worked on the face masks at night and figures it took her about four or five days to complete them.

"This was a big community effort," she said.

According to Reynolds, Harriman's selflessness in giving back is similar to when the community rallied around Cindy's family, when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, and a community supper was organized.

"She's a real sweetheart," Reynolds said.