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Washington Voices

Spokane Valley Partners offers backpacks, school supplies for needy students

Sat., Aug. 4, 2012

Families are probably starting to think about back-to-school shopping – most schools have their school supply lists already available.

There are folders and notebooks, No. 2 pencils, pens, crayons and erasers on the lists, among other items.

But for families living in poverty, the costs of school supplies may be insurmountable.

Spokane Valley Partners, 10814 E. Broadway Ave., is again offering its backpack program to low-income families in Spokane Valley.

There will be 650 backpacks this year. Families must register for the backpacks between Aug. 13 and 17, and during the week of Aug. 20 through 24, recipients must take a life skills class in order to receive the backpack.

Program director Connie Nelson said the classes have been very popular.

“Ten to 15 percent come back for more classes,” Nelson said. There are more than 20 classes offered. The classes will be at 10 a.m., noon, 2 and 4 p.m. that week.

Over the last several years, SVP has offered such classes as Escape School, where students can learn how to avoid child abduction. Another is how to find low- or no-cost insurance. SNAP teaches a class on how to make homemade cleaners from low-cost ingredients. There are a few that are taught in Russian, because a growing number of SVP’s clients speak Russian.

The backpacks are packed with school supplies depending on the grade level of the child. Starting in the fourth grade, children receive a scientific calculator in their backpacks, many of which were purchased from a local dollar store.

Nelson said she relies heavily on grants for the program, including one from Horizon Credit Union, so kids get a chance to have a nice backpack at the beginning of the school year. She said often on the first day of school, other students show off their new items and a nice backpack for her clients goes a long way in helping them socially at school.

Once, she met a young man who was suspended from school for not having a personal care kit, something with deodorant and other items to keep them clean during the school day. She said he didn’t want to tell the teacher his family couldn’t afford one. This year, SVP is focusing on dental care and adding toothbrushes and toothpaste to the packs.

“These are the tools they need to they are not at a disadvantage,” she said.

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