h5. Annual charity drive gets school supplies to those children who need them most

Oh to be young again; to enjoy the days that were filled with the sweet smells of those classic eight crayon colors, the accomplishment of cutting right on the dotted line, and the unforgettable freedom of wide-rule margins.

The Opportunity Council believes every kid should be able to enjoy the simple pleasures that new school supplies bring. This is why they are holding a school supply drive on August 22 for low-income and homeless children in Whatcom County.

“The children we support are homeless or in crisis and it’s very important to provide them with the resources they need to stay in school,” Opportunity Council public relations coordinator Sheri Emerson said.

The supplies won’t be collected in just any old bin; bins and boxes aren’t quite big enough for this school supply drive. Instead the Opportunity Council challenges the community to fill up whole school buses with new school supplies.

On August 22 a bus will be parked in front of the Opportunity Council offices on Cornwall Ave., Emerson said. While people fill the bus with their donations the Opportunity Council will serve hot dogs and drinks to all donators.

The Opportunity Council shares the donations with Blue Skies for Children and the Readiness To Learn program as well giving donations to children in the Opportunity Councils homeless housing programs, Emerson said.

Blue Skies for Children serves children that are in low-income households, are homeless, or in foster homes. Readiness To Learn is part of a statewide program that tries to reduce financial barriers that prevent children from learning.

Whatcom County’s Point-In-Time count for 2006 found that there are 348 homeless children under 12.

Blue Skies for Children’s homepage estimates that there are 6,000 children living below the poverty level in Whatcom County.
Often kids leave the Opportunity Council with a new backpack that is filled with so many school-supplies they have a hard time carrying it out, Emerson said.

“The children are always very excited; to have the opportunity to pick out their favorite folder color, get all new stuff, and have a new backpack just like all the other kids at school. So that, although there may be chaos in a part of their lives, they get to show up on the first day ready just like everyone else,” Opportunity Council Case Manager Supervisor Shannon Withrow said.

Along with donating new supplies Emerson also encourages people to donate a few dollars.

“There are always a few materials that they don’t get enough of and getting money donations allows the Opportunity Council to go out and buy these items for the kids,” Emerson said.

All new materials are appreciated, meaning that items like notebooks that Western students never seemed to get around to using are a great contribution.

Emerson also says that one of the best ways for Western students to make a difference is to give up a $3 cup of coffee sometime and instead donate that money to help promote education.

“This event has been going on for several years and is an excellent demonstration of how the community comes together to meet a need of children here,” Withrow said.