A local insurance agent inspired by her own struggles with poverty as a child is working to make a difference in the lives of local children facing similar circumstances.

Melissa Azzam, an Allstate Insurance Agent based out of Kilgore, is running a school supply drive for area children.

“When I was in school, we could never buy supplies,” Azzam said. 

The school supply drive, hosted by Azzam and Miguel Berlanga, both of Longview, will help children throughout the Gregg County area who cannot afford school supplies.

“He’s been doing (the drive) for a couple of years,” Azzam said.

Supplies are expected to benefit Kilgore, Longview and Ore City grade-school students. The Kilgore Fire Department has donated 42 backpacks so far.

“I was very surprised when the Fire Department came in with a big donation the day after I posted it.”  

KFD will make additional donations later this summer. Other individuals have given blue pens, pencils and spiral-bound notebooks. Another large donation is expected come in soon.

“It hasn’t happened yet,” laughed Azzam. 

The drive, currently underway, lasts until Aug. 9. The supplies will be given to area children between Aug. 10 and 15. 

Donors can drop off school supplies for the drive at four locations.

The first location is at Azzam’s office, which is open from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. from Monday through Thursday and from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Friday at 738 US Hwy. 259 North.

The three other locations include C&C TopKnot’ch SPAW, which is open from 7 a.m. through 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 1017 N 4th St. in Longview, The Cace Kitchen, open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 415 North High St. in Longview and Salon Pink, open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The salon is located at 204 N Green St. in Longview.

Attendees of Azzam’s free customer appreciation hot dog lunch will also be able to donate towards the cause on location.

“We are just trying to get more people to come,” she said.

The school supply drive goes towards Azzam’s volunteer hours at Allstate, and the hours Azzam works on the drive will help her earn a grant from Allstate Helping Hands Foundation. The money from the grant will go towards benefiting Boys and Girls Clubs of East Texas.

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