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Needy Whidbey students short on supplies

Jasmine, Heather and Tamika Nastali help collect the types of school supplies that are needed by local children from low-income families throughout Whidbey Island. - Vivian Rogers-Decker photo
Jasmine, Heather and Tamika Nastali help collect the types of school supplies that are needed by local children from low-income families throughout Whidbey Island.
— image credit: Vivian Rogers-Decker photo

Remember the fresh-start feeling of shiny, stiff shoes and new supplies on the first day of school?

Every child deserves to start off the school year with the supplies and clothing they need to fit in, but not all families can afford to meet all the requirements on school supply lists.

The Readiness to Learn Foundation serves qualified families throughout Whidbey Island by outfitting children with school supplies. The organization spends about $120 per child to provide basics like backpacks, paper, pencils, and calculators.Readiness to Learn also gives each child a $30 voucher to Walmart for items not available through the group’s distribution sites.

Gail LaVassar, Executive Director of the Readiness to Learn Foundation, said it takes about $100,000 a year to meet the needs of children returning to school on Whidbey Island.

“At this point, we’re running low on some supplies and not quite able to meet all the needs of families who come to us for help,” LaVassar said. The Coupeville Readiness to Learn program opened its doors to families on Aug. 29 with only enough supplies for 70 students.

“We’ve got 80 children signed up for the Back-to-School program already, and expect to serve up to 120 children before we’re done,” LaVassar said.

The Coupeville distribution site is in the art room at Coupeville Middle School-High School.In Oak Harbor, Readiness to Learn works in collaboration with the Opportunity Council, which sponsored a Back-to-School Giveaway program in early August. Throughout the year, Oak Harbor Readiness to Learn also helps foster and homeless children who arrive at school without needed supplies.

“We’ve already identified 117 homeless children starting school in Oak Harbor this year,”  LaVassar said. “And the Department of Children’s and Family Services office in Oak Harbor has referred another 20 foster children to us.”

Needs are greatest on South Whidbey, where up to 250 children will be served. Families who apply after supplies run out are put on a waiting list.“Poverty is definitely showing an increase on South Whidbey,” LaVassar said.

The South Whidbey Back-to-School program is administrated through the Family Resource Center at South Whidbey’s old primary school, and supplies are distributed from a portable at South Whidbey Elementary School. The schools are next door to each other on Maxwelton Road between Hwy. 525 and Langley.

LaVassar said the foundation is in need of specific school supplies such as college-ruled notebook paper, composition books, one-inch three-ring binders, basic and scientific calculators, watercolor paints, plastic pencil boxes, No. 2 pencils, red pencils, glue sticks and highlighters. “There’s no shortage of crayons,” she said. “We have enough crayons on hand to give a box to every child on Whidbey Island.

”Cash donations are needed, too, LaVassar said.“Local businesses and service groups have been generous with us, as well as private donors,” she said. “Windermere Real Estate in Coupeville donates to us generously every year. And the Clyde Theater in Langley collaborates with Island Athletic Club and Lindsay Communications to match funds donated in the Magic Change Jar at the theater.

”The organization makes sure donations are allocated in the same community from which the donation originated.“If you live in Coupeville and want to help local kids, then that’s where your money will go,” LaVassar said.

Families who need help providing school supplies for their children should contact the Readiness to Learn Foundation. In Coupeville, call 360-678-4551 Ext. 236. In Oak Harbor, call 360-279-5514. In South Whidbey, call 360-221-6808 Ext. 4322.

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