Reggie struggled at school, creating disruptions in class, failing to turn in assignments. He was as familiar with the principal’s office as he was with his own classroom.
That has all changed since his teacher discovered World Vision’s Kids in Need Resource Center in Renton. Every other month she visits the center, filling a shopping cart with school supplies, books, teaching tools, and even toys and games to use as incentives for her predominantly low-income students.
Reggie (not his real name) has stopped being disruptive. He turns in his assignments. He asked his teacher, “Mrs. Johnson, have you noticed I’m not getting in trouble any more? I have so much great stuff to work with now, I want to be good.”
Hearts and lives are changed by the work World Vision and its partners do through the Kids in Need Resource Center. The center is part of World Vision’s Storehouse ministries, providing free school and office supplies to schools in the Seattle-Tacoma area, Olympic Peninsula, and Yakima Valley. It thrives as a partnership with The Boeing Company and the School, Home, and Office Supplies Association’s (SHOPA) Foundation for Educational Excellence. Boeing’s Bluebills, a volunteer organization comprised of retired employees and their spouses, provides most of the skill and labor to run the center in warehouse space provided rent-free in Renton. Products come from World Vision, SHOPA and other corporate donors, including Boeing.
Schools in which at least 70 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-fee lunches qualify to “shop” regularly at the resource center. Educators pick up free school and office supplies that range from books, pens, pencils, paper and craft supplies, to binders, backpacks, rulers, and toys and gifts that can be used as incentives or rewards. Blankets for health rooms and even socks and underwear are necessary items educators can find at the center. Some more expensive items, such as digital cameras, slide projectors, and office furniture, are distributed through contests teachers can enter by submitting letters or original posters created by their students, explaining how the items are being used and expressing appreciation to product donors.
Seventy-two Seattle-Tacoma-area schools use the Kids in Need Resource Center, and another 37 schools from the Olympic Peninsula to the Yakima Valley also receive school supplies via the program. The program puts learning tools into the hands of 20,000 to 30,000 children each year.
The Bluebills (named after the first plane built by Boeing founder Bill Boeing), who keep the Kids in Need program humming in the Seattle-Tacoma area, are part of an organization formed in 1995 for company retirees who want to serve their communities. Kids in Need is just one of the organization’s many projects.
Volunteers are motivated by the stories they hear from teachers about students who come to school without even pencils or paper because in their homes, decisions have to be made: school supplies or groceries. School supplies rarely win. They read statistics that show students who lack resources lag behind their schoolmates, and studies that paint a picture of teachers who try to narrow that gap by spending hundreds, and sometimes thousands of their own dollars.
Pens, pencil, paints and paper help young learners perform better in the classroom, but other Kids in Need resources, such as storybooks, are gifts that are treasured by children.
“Many of our kids don’t own any books,” said White Center Heights teacher Betty Wolfe. “They are so excited to get them.”
The teachers are able to express their thanks in person when they visit the center. “One teacher was literally bouncing with excitement,” as she pushed her cart up and down the aisles of shelves filled with supplies and toys, recalled volunteer Ron Bacher. Students use the pens, crayons, paints, and paper their teachers bring back to express their thanks. The center receives “literally hundreds of letters and posters” from students, said manager Howard Snyder, another Bluebills volunteer.
Ron’s favorite letter came with a photo of a young girl he refers to as his “poster gal” for Kids in Need. She’d just been presented with a new backpack for carrying her new books and supplies to school. She had never owned her own backpack, and her toothy smile and big eyes lit up the image. “You could see in the picture that she was so thrilled. It made my day,” he said.
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