And now, more than ever, help is needed from residents, organizers say.
The Olympia-based nonprofit launched its school-supply drive with far less money last year, the result of a decline in donations, said committee member Cheryl Huffman.
As a result, the organization wasn’t able to order as many supplies in bulk as it has in the past, she said.
In addition, committee members expect 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 to have their children pick out donations while they’re shopping for their own school supplies. She said it will teach them a lesson about helping others in need.
“Plus we’re more apt to get things kids want because they’ll be thinking about themselves,” Huffman said.
Little Red Schoolhouse formed in 1991, when residents and representatives from local social service agencies, churches and businesses 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 it’s 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(-price) 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 district added 837 children to the free and reduced-price 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.
Little Red Schoolhouse will accept any cash, school-supply or clothing donation. The items 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.