Olympia nonprofit gives away thousands of backpacks filled with school supplies

lpemberton@theolympian.comAugust 15, 2013 

Little Red Schoolhouse project volunteers began arriving at 7 a.m. at Capital High School in Olympia to prepare for Thursday’s school supply giveaway.

And they were greeted with a line of about 1,000 people.

“There were people lined up clear around the school when I got here,” said volunteer coordinator Debbie Haddock. “It was amazing.”

Last year, the Olympia-based nonprofit provided school supplies and clothing to 3,133 Thurston County school kids, according to co-chairwoman Judy Kimeldorf.

Although this year’s numbers aren’t yet available, the turnout seemed to be about the same, she added.

After the doors opened, families were given numbers and an estimated time for when they could pick up their items.

For some folks, it was expected to be a three- or four-hour wait in damp weather.

“It actually went really fast,” said Cale Hehman, 39, of Lacey.

About 120 volunteers were expected to help at the 10-hour event, Haddock said.

The Little Red Schoolhouse was founded in 1991, and has grown quite a bit in recent years.

Volunteer Liz Kapust recalled having a $2,000 budget to buy supplies for the program in 1997; this year, she spent about $25,000.

In addition to a backpack filled with basic school supplies, the Little Red Schoolhouse offered coats, socks and underwear – items that families indicated they needed the most during a survey last year, Kimeldorf said. Most children left with about $70 worth of items, she said.

“It’s going to be tremendously helpful,” said Allison Arredondo, 29, of Olympia. “Having three kids going into school is expensive.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com @Lisa_Pemberton

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