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School suppliers: Churches combine efforts to give local students a great school year

Jan Van Liew, Peggy Buckingham, and Jane Benson look over some of the school supplies already gathered for their annual school supply drive. Benson coordinates the drive from Mount Si Lutheran Church, with donations and help from Buckingham at Our Lady of Sorrows, while Van Liew leads a show drive at Snoqualmie Valley Alliance, all to outfit Valley students for a great school year. - Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo
Jan Van Liew, Peggy Buckingham, and Jane Benson look over some of the school supplies already gathered for their annual school supply drive. Benson coordinates the drive from Mount Si Lutheran Church, with donations and help from Buckingham at Our Lady of Sorrows, while Van Liew leads a show drive at Snoqualmie Valley Alliance, all to outfit Valley students for a great school year.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

It could be a stationery shop. Fat yellow pencils, boxes of safety scissors and stacks of notebooks are heaped on tables and along the walls of what is normally the quilters’ room at Mount Si Lutheran Church. Today, though, and for the next few weeks, the room is school supply central.

Peggy Buckingham, a volunteer with the school supply drive and pastoral assistant at Our Lady of Sorrows, her church, drops off a few bags of pencils and such, then does a quick assessment of what’s there, and what’s missing.

“I’ve bought about half of what we need,” Mount Si member and drive co-organizer Jane Benson tells her.

What they need are backpacks, pens and pencils, paper, binders, folders, and all the other essentials to outfit about 200 Valley children for the start of school. Shoes, too.

“To me, back-to-school always means a new pair of shoes,” said Jan Van Liew, who’s coordinating the ninth annual new shoe drive at Snoqualmie Valley Alliance. Volunteers from SVA and Mount Si will together pass out shoes and filled backpacks on the last two Wednesdays in August at the Mount Si Food Bank.

Sign-ups

Both drives are estimating 200 students because that’s roughly the number who signed up for help with school supplies and new shoes at the food bank in July, but both know from years of experience that there will probably be more. They want to be prepared for as many as they can be, during the Aug. 24 and 31 distributions.

They will be, too, because the Valley is full of kind, generous people, says former organizer Nancy Flanagan. She spearheaded the drive from Mount Si Lutheran starting around 2003, a few years after Mount Si member Cindy Peach launched it as a joint effort with Our Lady of Sorrows, and says she’s never had to turn anyone away.

Some years, she notes, she’s had a few extra supplies, which she just stored for the next fall.

“On that first day of school, it’s so important for every child to feel like they’re prepared and ready to learn, and they don’t stand out for not having something,” she said.

Congregation members give money, supplies and time to the school supplies project each year. Some donate cash, some buy a few items on the drive’s wish list or from the “apples” on a giving tree in Mount Si, or on the church bulletin list at Our Lady of Sorrows, and some buy it all, bringing in fully-stocked backpacks, ready to be distributed. Others help with their time, coming to the Mount Si work party to fill the backpacks.

After the donation deadline, Aug. 12, Benson said she and co-organizer Joan Ritland will take inventory of all the gathered supplies, then start moving them into a larger room, and organizing them for the work party, when “People just grab a backpack and a list and ‘go shopping!’”

At SVA, congregation members can help out while doing their own back-to-school shopping. Donors take cards, each one listing the age, gender, shoe size and first name of a student who needs shoes, and then hit the stores.

“We just tell our people to buy a pair of shoes that they’d buy for their own kids,” Van Liew said.

All shoe donations are dropped off at the church, where Van Liew organizes them for distribution.

Van Liew started the drive after talking to Flanagan, saying she wanted to help people with back to school preparations, but didn’t want to duplicate the other churches’ efforts.

“It’s really cool that all these churches work together to give kids a really good start,” she said.

Whether the children receiving the shoes and packs understand all the work that goes into it, they definitely appreciate it.

“The kids are very excited when they get their new backpacks,” Benson said, smiling.

This year, the excitement will go further, too, Benson says, because she personally bought a supply of kid-sized paper totes with coloring books and other treasures inside. These are for the pre-school siblings of the students picking up their supplies, she said, “because the younger ones always feel left out.”

You can help

Donations for the school supply drive can be dropped off at Mount Si Lutheran Church in North Bend, (425) 888-1322, or Our Lady of Sorrows in Snoqualmie, (425) 888-2974.

Pick up cards for the shoe drive at Snoqualmie Valley Alliance in Fall City, (425) 441-8364.

 

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