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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Groups collect, donate new school supplies

Samantha Burger, age 5, deposits a shopping bag with school supplies donated by Barbara Bumgarner, left, into a collection barrel at the Shadle Wal-Mart.
 (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Starting school can be intimidating for many kids. But imagine starting without paper, pencils, notebooks or even a backpack to carry everything in.

Several groups, large and small, throughout the community are holding drives to collect school supplies for kids whose families can’t afford the necessary items.

And even though at least two organizations are reporting fewer requests for help with schools supplies compared with this time last year, most groups can still use more donations, especially those for older students.

“We get a lot of items for little kids,” said Elizabeth Giles, public relations coordinator for Camp Fire USA, which collected school supplies during a recent two-day drive. But they tend to get fewer items that middle school and high school students use including binders, college-ruled paper, scissors and pencil pouches, she said.

Volunteers stationed at several stores in Eastern Washington and North Idaho on Aug. 12 and 13 collected 2,479 pencils and 379 boxes of crayons, Giles said. That’s quite a bit less than what was collected last year when more than 12,000 pencils and 1,600 boxes of crayons came in. Giles explained that Camp Fire was only able to collect for two days this year, compared with two weeks last year. “It definitely made an impact,” Giles said.

The group received $1,191 in cash donations, which will be used to purchase backpacks and supplies that weren’t donated, she said. Camp Fire will send supplies out to several local agencies serving families and will keep remaining supplies at local Camp Fire offices to be distributed to families that call and ask for help.

Giles estimated that Camp Fire would have some supplies available through Aug. 28.

Officials at the Spokane Valley Community Center collected supplies earlier in the summer and will begin distribution on Wednesday. In the past, parents only had to pre-register and show a need for help. This year, the center decided to require parents to attend at least one education class before receiving supplies, said Sharon Hengy, assistant director of the Spokane Valley Community Center. “Part of our mission is providing education to help people move out of poverty.”

The change, however, appears to have affected the number of parents signing up for distribution, Hengy said. Some parents have said it would be too difficult for them to get to the center to register and then return another time for a class, she said.

The classes cover topics from money management to landlord-tenant issues and helping children succeed. Those who have attended classes have given positive feedback, Hengy said.

Classes will be offered during distribution days through Aug. 30. Parents need to bring proof of a Spokane Valley address and either their child’s Social Security number or medical coupons.

The Center, which has “a great number of supplies” reports that it could still use more binders and scissors. If there are supplies left over after the distribution period, Hengy said they will send a note to teachers letting them know supplies are available if they see kids come to school empty-handed.

The Salvation Army has been collecting school supplies at Fred Meyer and Shopko stores, and plans to put together 150 backpacks/bags of school supplies for children served by the organization, said Christy Markham, marketing and public relations official. Staff and volunteers plan to distribute most of the backpacks on Aug. 31.

Collections at Fred Meyer and the Salvation Army’s Family Services office will continue through the first week of September, Markham said, adding that leftover supplies are used for children who pass through the organization’s homeless family and emergency foster care programs throughout the school year.

Several churches around the region have held back-to-school drives to collect supplies and clothing for kids in need. Anyone looking for help can also contact their child’s teacher or school counselor, as many organizations will work directly with an individual school.