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Network Of Strangers Across The Country Help Rescue Shipment Of School Supplies For Sunnyvale Students In Need

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Of all the things Sunnyvale Community Services does to help local families in need, and there are many, their yearly school supply giveaway is one of Executive Director Marie Bernard's favorites.

"It is one of the most important and joyful events of the year," Bernard said.

So, when nearly 2,000 boxes of school supplies were ordered well in advance of this year's giveaway, all looked good.

It looked even better when the boxes were shipped from the supplier in Indiana, Pennsylvania to a warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee. That, though, is where they sat.

"They were sitting there and sitting there and sitting there," Bernard said. "The shipping company was overwhelmed with orders and didn't have enough drivers."

Staff members at SCS checked and re-checked the status of the shipment. Toward the end of July, they realized it was coming close to the point of no return for getting the supplies to Sunnyvale in time for the organization's giveaway, scheduled for early August.

This one shipment became Barnard's sole obsession. "I said, 'We got to get this out of Memphis. We're not taking no for an answer.'"

With less than a week to go before the event, Barnard turned for help to people she knew could get things done: her fellow members in the Rotary Club of Sunnyvale.

The club's president, Barry Vickrey used to live in Tennessee and knew people who knew people.

"It was this incredible network. Bing, bing, bing, bing,' Bernard said. "One person said, 'I don't know what it is but I'm going to call this person and you'll get a call from somebody or you may get an email from this person and we're going to do this.'"

Three separate Rotary Clubs in Memphis joined in the effort to free the school supplies and even executives at FedEx got involved. Eventually, a lone driver willing to make the 2,000-mile dash across the country was found. The supplies arrived just mere hours ahead of the children and their families who were expecting them.

The driver's name was Walter.

"He had a big grin and what he said was, 'I heard you really needed this by tomorrow,'" Barnard said. "It's overwhelming."

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