Readiness to Learn seeks help preparing students for school year
By BERRY FREEMAN
South Whidbey Record Contributing writer
August 31, 2012 · Updated 4:19 PM
Remember the fresh-start feeling of shiny, stiff shoes and new supplies on the first day of school? Every child deserves to start off the school year with the supplies and clothing they need to fit in, but not all families can afford to meet all the requirements on school supply lists.
The Readiness to Learn Foundation serves qualified families on South Whidbey, Coupeville and Oak Harbor by outfitting children with school supplies. The foundation spends about $120 per child to provide basics like backpacks, paper, pencils and calculators. The foundation also gives each child a $30 voucher to Wal-Mart for items not provided through its distribution sites.
Gail LaVassar, executive director of the foundation, said it takes about $100,000 a year to meet the needs of children returning to school on Whidbey Island.
“At this point, we’re running low on some supplies and not quite able to meet all the needs of families who come to us for help,” LaVassar said.
Families who apply after supplies run out are put on a waiting list. Needs are greatest on South Whidbey, where up to 250 children will be served.
“Poverty is definitely showing an increase on South Whidbey,” LaVassar said.
The South Whidbey Back-to-School program is administrated through the Family Resource Center at South Whidbey’s old primary school, and supplies are distributed from a portable at South Whidbey Elementary School. The schools are neighbors on Maxwelton Road between Highway 525 and Langley.
LaVassar noted that the foundation is in need of specific school supplies such as college ruled notebook paper, composition books, one-inch three-ring binders, basic and scientific calculators, watercolor paints, plastic pencil boxes, No. 2 and red pencils, glue sticks and highlighters.
“There’s no shortage of crayons,” said LaVassar. “We have enough crayons on hand to give a box to every child on Whidbey Island.”
“Cash donations are needed too,” LaVassar said. “Local businesses and service groups have been generous with us, as well as private donors. For example, the Clyde Theater in Langley collaborates with Island Athletic Club and Lindsay Communications to match funds donated in the ‘Magic Change Jar’ at the theater.”
“Windermere Real Estate in Coupeville also donates to us generously every year,” she said.
“We’re very careful to allocate donations to the community they were donated from. If you live in Coupeville and want to help local kids, then that’s where your money will go,” LaVassar said.
The Coupeville Readiness to Learn program opened its doors to families Aug. 29.
“We’ve got 80 children signed up for the Back-to-School program already, and expect to serve up to 120 children before we’re done,” LaVassar said.
She noted that they started the program with only enough supplies for 70 students. The Coupeville distribution site is on Main Street in the middle/high school art room.
In Oak Harbor, Readiness to Learn works in collaboration with the Opportunity Council, which sponsored a Back-to-School Giveaway program in early August. Beyond that program, Oak Harbor Readiness to Learn meets the year-round needs of foster and homeless children who arrive at school without needed supplies.
“We’ve already identified 117 homeless children starting school in Oak Harbor this year,” said LaVassar. “And the Department of Children’s and Family Services office in Oak Harbor has referred another 20 foster children to us.”
To donate money to the Readiness to Learn Foundation, send a check to: Readiness to Learn Back-to-School Program, P.O. Box 346, Langley, WA 98260.
To donate school supplies, look for Readiness to Learn Foundation donation boxes at local churches and businesses or go to the distribution sites at Coupeville Middle/High School on Main Street and South Whidbey Elementary School on Maxwelton Road.
Families who need help providing school supplies for their children should contact Readiness to Learn by calling 360-279-5514 in Oak Harbor, 360-678-4551 ext. 236 in Coupeville, or 360-221-6808 ext. 4322 on South Whidbey.