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This middle schooler added art kits to Forsyth County’s meal service for students in need
Shreya Kharidhi, right, a seventh-grader at South Forsyth Middle School, distributes art kits to families and students at Whitlow Elementary School. (Photo courtesy Shreya Kharidhi)

The Forsyth County school district has been providing local families and students in need with free meals since school buildings closed amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. A few weeks ago, Shreya Kharidhi added something extra.

Kharidhi, a seventh-grader at South Forsyth Middle School, provided art kits for students who came through the Forsyth County Schools’s free meal pick-up service at Whitlow Elementary School. 

About 100 students received the pre-packaged kits filled with crayons, markers, notebooks and other supplies.

“The kids were so excited to go make art,” Kharidhi said.

Kharidhi and her family had been searching for a way to help the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, so they reached out to Forsyth County Schools for guidance. Staff mentioned that some students don’t have access to art supplies at home with schools closed.

An avid artist, the cause appealed to Kharidhi.

“Art is something I’ve been doing my whole life,” Kharidhi said. “It’s always been a way to express my emotions and show creativity.

“When I found out there were so many kids that couldn’t do that, I didn’t like that. So I wanted to fix it.”

Shreya Kharidhi, a seventh-grader at South Forsyth Middle School, recently donated over 100 art kits in the Forsyth County Schools's meal pick-up service for families and students in need. (Photo courtesy Shreya Kharidhi)

Kharidhi turned to her father, Sandeep, for help. He’s on the board at The Empty Stocking Fund, an Atlanta nonprofit organization, which also operates a chapter of the Kids in Need Foundation that provides free school supplies to students. The organization usually does a back-to-school drive in August, but it decided to use its resources to help the community during the virus outbreak.

Kids in Need donated the art kits, and Shreya took them to Whitlow, one of two locations, along with Sawnee Elementary School, where students have been able to get a free lunch and breakfast for the next day during the week from 12-1 p.m.

“It was totally unexpected for [the families],” Sandeep said. “They didn’t know ahead of time. They were there to pick up a meal for the day. 

“There were families literally in tears filled with emotion and gratitude.”

The response inspired Shreya to continue. Now, she is organizing her own art supply drive, called “Art for Every1,” and seeking donations from the community with the help of an Amazon Wishlist where individuals can purchase sketch pads and notebooks, crayons and markers, colored pencils and Sharpies, even Amazon gift cards.

Everything purchased goes toward the next round of art kits that Shreya plans to distribute to students during a future meal pick-up at Sawnee Elementary.

Judging by the rate of donations, Shreya expects to assemble about 200 kits.

“Art is really important to me, and all kids deserve to be able to make their own art,” Shreya said. “...We need to provide that for them.”

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