Published August 16, 2012
Families lined up before dawn for Little Red Schoolhouse giveawayLISA PEMBERTON
Krista Fracker showed up at 4 a.m. today to secure at spot in line at the Little Red Schoolhouses event at Capital High School.And she was No. 99.But Fracker said the six-hour wait was worth it. She left with a new backpack, a winter coat and a bag filled with basic school supplies for her daughter Piper, who will be a third-grader at Hansen Elementary School in Olympia.It just really helps out a lot, the single mother said. I feel really overjoyed.In 2011, the Little Red Schoolhouse Project outfitted 3,097 students with backpacks, school supplies and clothing.Were probably looking at 3,400 this year, said volunteer Barbara McLean, 76, of Tumwater.The Olympia-based nonprofit was formed in 1991 by residents and representatives from local social service agencies, churches and businesses. It collects cash, school supplies and clothing year round, however most people donate during the month of August.This year, the organization was able to giveaway about $25,000 worth of school supplies, and about $10,000 worth of backpacks, according to committee member Cheryl Huffman.It also offered coats and outfits for children. Most of the items were from area school lost-and-found bins, and were sorted and washed before the event, placed on hangers and organized by size on racks similar to those found in retail stores.This helps us big time, said Mike Wertz, 39, of Tumwater, who has four children in the Tumwater School District. Its a great feeling to get that extra boost.About 200 volunteers turned out to help support the event, including 16-year-old Justin Bishop of Olympia. The Capital High School junior spent about eight weeks washing and folding clothes for the effort as part of his Eagle Project for Boy Scouts. He also helped recruit other volunteers, set up and staff the 10-hour event. Its a really good opportunity for everyone to get service time in, and it really helps the community, Bishop said.McLean has volunteered with the Little Red Schoolhouse Project for 17 years. Since she also cooks for the Salvation Army and volunteers with the orthopedic association for Mary Bridge Childrens Hospital, she decided that this would be her last year with the Little Red Schoolhouse.Its a tough loss for the organization, according to volunteer Judy Kimeldorf.Shes kind of our base, said Kimeldorf, a retired Komachin Middle School teacher. Shes the person we go to for history. Shell do anything. When McLean began with the Little Red Schoolhouse, it was serving 1,200 students a year.Weve grown every year, she said. Its sad to see that theres so much need in our community. I dont think we think of ourselves as a poor community.McLean said her favorite part has always been watching kids choose a winter coat, or other clothing item, that they get to keep.Ive loved it, she said. It's "helping kids go back to school with pride - to feel good about themselves. We dont want kids bullied or picked on for something they dont have.