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Back To School Project seeks last-minute help

LANGLEY — The first day of school can be an exciting experience; checking out classrooms, seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

Or it can be the worst day ever, especially if a child lacks the basic tools for success.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, thanks to the Family Resource Center.

When school begins next week — Thursday, Sept. 6 — youngsters will be busy stuffing their backpacks with all the essentials.

But not every student is ready for school with a new backpack and all of the supplies needed for class.

That’s where the center steps in. For the ninth year, the Family Resource Center’s Back To School Project functions as a school supply drive that serves families who qualify based on financial need — including the estimated 60 homeless children living on South Whidbey. The project provides students with new school supplies including a backpack, a clothing voucher for a new school outfit, and even a haircut.

But with only a couple dozen empty packs available Monday morning, some kids are going to lose out.

Center officials said that due to a communication problem with a humanitarian organization called World Vision, some kids won’t get a backpack.

Last year, World Vision had the funding to provide backpacks filled with school supplies. And in year’s past, South Whidbey received donations of hundreds of packs filled with school supplies from World Vision and others.

“They’re over-committed this year,” FRC manager Amanda Fisher said. “As a result we’re in desperate need.”

Backpacks are no longer just for hauling textbooks and lunch. Students also pack them with laptops, cellphones and iPods.

Simply put, backpacks offer a space that kids can call their own and without one, they can easily feel left out.

Organizers hope people in the community will help with last-minute donations.

“We need to help 280 deserving students, about 30 more than last year,” added executive director Gail LaVassar.

“A $50 donation helps one student and we hope to raise $11,750 to reach this goal. And all donations stay right here to help local families.”

“Our goal is to provide kids with supplies in a dignified setting,” said FRC board member Sally Hardenberg.

“We set up the center as a store-like environment with all the supplies displayed to get them excited about school,” Fisher explained. “Volunteers are there to help the children shop for their new supplies and to greet families when they arrive.”

Retired widow Eve Schroeder has been helping out for a year.

“I’ve always been active in children’s affairs,” she said. “I do flyers and some clerical work. It has been very rewarding. I stay busy.”

Fisher noted they need all sorts of school supplies for the project — binders, crayons, notebooks, pens and pencils. Items can be dropped off either at the primary school from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday or at one of the locations below.

“The generosity of the community makes all this possible,” LaVassar said. “It’s all about neighbors helping neighbors and all of them helping the kids.”

To learn more, call 221-6808, ext. 4602.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

SIDEBAR

The Family Resource Center will be open Monday to Friday from Aug. 27 to Sept. 5. The center is located behind the primary school on Maxwelton Road. School starts Sept. 6. Time slots for volunteers are available from 9:45 a.m. to noon and from 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Local churches and businesses will be happy to accept donations of packs and supplies:

In Clinton, the Calvary Chapel, House of Prayer and Wells Fargo Bank.

In Langley, the Christian Missionary Alliance, St. Hubert Catholic Church, United Methodist Church and the Whidbey Island Bank.

In Freeland, the Christian Life Center, Coastal Community Bank, St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods Episcopal Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, US Bank, Washington Mutual Bank and Wells Fargo Bank.

For details, call 221-6808, ext. 4602. Financial donations can be made out to the Back To School Project and mailed to:

Back To School Project

PO Box 346

Langley, WA 9826

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