And now, more than ever, help is needed from the community, organizers say.
The Olympia-based nonprofit launched its school supply drive with far less money last year, due to a decline in donations, said committee member Cheryl Huffman.
As a result, the organization wasnt able to order as many supplies in bulk as it has in the past, she said.
In addition, committee members are expecting a larger turnout this year.
The school supplies will be limited this year, Huffman said. We just want people to know that before they get there.
For folks who want to help, Huffman encourages parents have their children pick out donations while theyre shopping for school supplies. She said it will teach them a lesson about helping others in need.
Plus were more apt to get things kids want because theyll be thinking about themselves, Huffman said.
The Little Red Schoolhouse formed in 1991, when representatives from local social service agencies, churches, businesses and the community formed a committee to ensure children have the basics to return to school with pride.
Last year, the organization outfitted 3,097 students with backpacks, school supplies and clothing.
I know its been a tremendous help for our district, said Olympia School District spokesman Ryan Betz. Over the last few years, as our number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches has gone up, the need has gone up. That support makes a huge difference in the lives of those students and families.
During the 2011-12 school year, the 9,400-student Olympia School District added 837 children to the free and reduced lunch program, Betz said.
Many of these families struggle at the beginning of the school year trying to figure out how they are going to continue to meet all of their basic needs with the added costs of new school clothes and supplies, Betz said.
The Little Red Schoolhouse will accept any cash or school supply or clothing donation. However, the items that it needs the most are paper, three-ring binders, rulers, crayons, colored markers, colored pencils and scientific calculators.
The organization appears to have enough backpacks already, thanks to contributions from two of its corporate partners, Huffman said.
Donations can be dropped off at Heritage Bank locations in Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater, as well as Capitol City Storage, 9520 Kimmie Road S.W., Tumwater. Checks can be mailed to the Little Red Schoolhouse Project, P.O. Box 6302, Olympia, Wash., 98507.
In addition, MIXX 96.1 will hold its annual donation drive from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 10 at the corner of State and Washington in downtown Olympia.
If you go: The Little Red Schoolhouse will hold its back-to-school giveaway of clothing and supplies for families in need from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Aug. 16 at Capital High School, 2707 Conger Ave. N.W., Olympia. The event is extremely popular, so families should prepare for long lines and limited selection. For more information, including how to donate items or volunteer at the event, go to www.redschool.org or call the Community Action Council at 360-438-1100 ext. 1143.