Fourth-graders help family into home

LACEY - A displaced family soon will have a permanent home, helped by the efforts of Lacey fourth-graders.

Students in Laurie Jones’ and Sue Koch’s classes dug into their pockets, using birthday money and Christmas gifts to make a donation to the Family Support Center that will help a Lacey family pay the deposit on an apartment.

The family, which consists of two parents, an elementary school student and a toddler, was scheduled to visit the class this week to thank the students personally.

“I didn’t realize that it was so expensive to move into a house,” said Madeline Retzlaff, 10. “I knew it was expensive to pay rent, but I didn’t realize that it was expensive just to move.”

Madeline said she created a flier and knocked on doors in her neighborhood to ask neighbors for money. She also volunteered to help neighbors with chores in exchange for a donation.

“I think we put more effort into it because it was a family in our area,” Madeline said.

Seth Fuller, 10, said the two classes together raised more than twice what Jones’ class raised last year for an international organization.

“Last year, we raised $170. This year, we raised close to $450,” he said.

The class got involved with the Family Support Center’s Home Before the Holidays program, which raised money for its ongoing rental-assistance fund, said Patty Gregory, programs manager at the Family Support Center.

The homeless families that the agency helps aren’t likely to lose their new home, either because of new jobs, job training or other reasons, Gregory said.

“Every family is unique. The common thread that we were looking for (in) this program was that if we got them into housing that they could stay there,” she said.

“Many of the homeless families that we are working with are living in their cars. There are families in our shelter system, and some are staying in temporary places,” Gregory said.

She said the most recent Thurston County homeless census counted 812 homeless children, a number that does not count students who might be staying with friends or relatives, or families staying in temporary places such as hotels.

Laurie Jones and Sue Koch said their classes also read books about homelessness, and that they discussed how homelessness affects some South Sound families.

Students said the project made them more aware of homelessness in the region.

“I’m just amazed where you can see the homeless,” said Dylin Jackson, 9. “In McDonald’s, we saw someone there and it’s that they just don’t have any other place to go. I gave one of them five dollars.”

Jones said it wasn’t important how much money that a student could contribute, only that a student could give something. She said what the classes raised won’t pay for the entire deposit and rent, but will help.

The mother of the Lacey family helped by Jones’ and Koch’s classes called Jones’ class earlier this week to express her thanks.

“It was exciting to hear the voice of the family,” said Jaelen Arnette, 9, who asked his mother not to buy a him a Christmas present so he could donate the money instead. “I was really proud of myself and our classes because we helped them find a home.”

Venice Buhain: 360-754-5445