Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fishline's School Supply Program: A Community Project From Start to Finish

The beginning of the school year is an exciting time for families.  New classes, old friends, many kids are very eager to return to school.  One of the important rituals during this time is school shopping. This would include shopping for clothes, shoes, and school supplies.  For a family in need, this inspiring time of year can be very stressful.

In place for over 9 years, the North Kitsap Fishline School Supply Program has worked with families to ease this stress.  Kathy Smith, the coordinator of the program, works diligently with local churches and businesses to ensure it's success.  

Mid-summer, every year, Kathy recruits volunteers from the community, not just the seasoned volunteers from Fishline, but others as well.  She reaches out to local businesses and churches -- while many step up on their own.  This event is one that many organizations have on their calendar annually.  These groups then have school supply drives at their business locations or coordinate events with their parishes to stock up their share of donations. 

At the end of the school supply drive, the items are inventoried, sorted, and packed based on grade level and supply requirement lists from the schools.  Children and teenage volunteers are asked to pack the backpacks for their peers, an experience that many of them learn a lot from.  It's important that young people in the community understand that people in need are not only in need of food, but every day things that might be taken for granted. 

In 2012, our program served 251 students in the North Kitsap School District, grades K through 12.  This year, we served 274 students.  Families in need register their children at the food bank during the same period of time that we are collecting supplies.  Many of the older kids who need supplies come in and register themselves. Participants can expect to receive standard school supplies, such as binders, paper, pencils, and pens or everything on the pre-printed lists provided by the schools. These are all packed neatly in sturdy backpacks, purchased with monies generously donated by the community.  This year, the program received approximately $5795 in in-kind donations.

Kathy Smith, NK Fishline School Supply Drive Coordinator

Each family is assigned a time to come and pick up their backpacks.  The time slots are spaced out to be discreet, and to give the students time to choose extra items from our bin of miscellaneous supplies that have been collected.  It's not exactly school shopping, but the kids are excited to receive the items and parents are relieved and grateful.  It's this exchange that makes the program well worth the 120+ hours of volunteer time!

After registered families collect their backpacks, the extra supplies and packed bags are distributed to the local schools, for financially challenged kids that may come in during the school year. If these run out at the schools, parents can also come to the food bank and request help.  Items in storage help to meet these needs all year long. The schools are also aware that they can contact Kathy if they have families come in and need help with supplies.

A huge thanks to Kathy Smith for all her very hard work.  As coordinator of this much needed program, she commits many hours of volunteer time towards this community supported project and we are so grateful for her efforts. Read her letter of thanks to the North Kitsap community here.

To learn more about our school supply program or to contribute to these and other programs, please visit our webpage at www.nkfishline.org.

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