Thousands turn out for school supply giveaway in Lacey

Thousands of people turned out for the Little Red Schoolhouse Project’s school supply giveaway at Komachin Middle School in Lacey on Thursday.

“People started showing up at 8 o’clock last night, to camp out and get the school supplies,” said Olympia High school senior and Lakefair queen Madi Murphy, 17, who was among the 150 or so volunteers at the event.

The Olympia-based nonprofit outfitted 3,384 students in 2013, according to co-chair Judy Kimeldorf. Although attendance numbers won’t be available until later in the week, volunteers reported an increase in families with three or more children at this year’s event, she said.

In addition to basic school supplies such as notebooks, crayons and pencils, students were given new backpacks, underwear and socks.

“It’s wonderful,” said Laurie Conway of Olympia, as she waited in line with her sons Randy, 7, and Luke, 3. “It helps people who are in need.”

The Little Red Schoolhouse Project was established in 1991 to help provide school supplies for families who couldn’t afford to buy them. Many of its volunteers, such as Kimeldorf, are current or former educators.

This year, organizers also pushed for donations of new and gently used coats. They ended up getting about 3,200 of them, Kimeldorf said.

“It’s not a coat for everybody, but it’s almost there,” she said.

Dana Johnson of Rainier brought her three kids to the event.

The single mom is between jobs. Without help from the Little Red Schoolhouse, her family would struggle to get the basics they need for the beginning of the school year, she said.

The Johnson kids had fun browsing through the items that were organized like a retail store in Komachin’s gym.

Seven-year-old Lydia Johnson found a pair of sparkly purple Nike shoes that fit perfectly; 11-year-old Benjamin found a leather coat that he really wanted and 14-year-old Emily snagged a “cool backpack.”

“It’s a good selection,” the teen said, with a smile.