What does it take to fill nearly 1,300 backpacks?

What does it take to fill nearly 1,300 backpacks? A lot of planning, a lot of supplies, a lot of backpacks, but most of all A LOT OF FANTASTIC VOLUNTEERS!

Nyree and a pile of backpacksDuring our five volunteer days, we had over 90 volunteers help stuff backpacks for nearly 1,300 homeless children. We had volunteers from age 4 – age 70+ volunteer with Project Cool this year to make sure that every homeless child served by Project Cool could go back to school in September equipped with the same tools for success as every other child in his or her class. Our youngest volunteers were truly some of the best volunteers, they worked hard and had excellent attitudes, even through the long 3 hour shifts when they had to carry heavy backpacks up long flights of stairs. One of our youngest volunteers even came up and asked me, “Can I volunteer with you again soon?” I told her that we would be happy to have her again next year, and she quickly told me, “But next year is SOOOOO far away!”

Bundling pens and pencils (5)Project Cool is truly a volunteer-powered project, and without these fantastic, hard-working, and enthusiastic volunteers, we would not be able to provide something so critical – a brand new backpack with school supplies – at the beginning of the school year to 1,300 homeless children in preschool – twelfth grade.  The gift of a new backpack gives both the parents and the kids one less thing to worry about – the parents don’t have to worry about one more thing to purchase that they can’t afford, and the kids don’t have to worry about being stigmatized at school because they can’t afford the right supplies or a backpack.

Bev and Steve from Windermere stuffing pre-k backpacksEven though the backpacks are all stuffed, Project Cool isn’t over yet! As you are shopping with your kids for their school supplies, think of ways that you might be able to support Project Cool through a school supply drive. We are already beginning to gear up for next year, and the best time to do that is when everything is on sale. If you would like to host a supply drive or find out how to host a supply drive, contact Kathryn Murdock, 2013 Project Cool Coordinator (projectcool@homelessinfo.org).

Homelessness is Hard for Kids

Project Cool Donate Here poster

Project Cool Donate Here poster

Friday morning, Kathleen called me from the road: “Hi Ally, I’m about 5 minutes away. Do you have a cart that we could use to unload the supplies? I don’t think we can carry it all in a single trip.” Last Friday, Kathleen Cromp, member and Sunday school teacher at the University Unitarian Church and Executive Director of local nonprofit Wallingford Community Senior Center, dropped by the SKCCH office with the back seat of her car filled to the roof with school supplies for Project Cool for Back to School.

The numerous boxes and bags of supplies Kathleen had brought to donate was a result of her work with a Sunday school class of 2nd and 3rd graders at the University Unitarian Church. This spring the class discussed issues of homelessness in our community and after weeks of discussion the kids wanted to take action and do something to help. The class partnered with Project Cool for Back to School and hosted a supply drive at the University Unitarian Church to collect school supplies, toothbrushes, and toothpaste for homeless students across King County starting school in September. The students worked hard to bring in donations for Project Cool by making collection boxes, designing and hanging posters (like the one pictured here) to solicit donations, sending out emails to church members, and speaking about their supply drive in front of the entire congregation during Sunday church service!

These kids are right, homelessness is hard for kids. School can be an important source of stability for a child, especially when life outside of school is confusing and unpredictable. Just getting to school for a child staying at a shelter across town can be a nearly insurmountable challenge. Making sure children have the tools for success in school is a simple but important step in helping a homeless student fit in, learn, and go far.

As Kathleen and I unloaded boxes upon boxes of toothpaste, toothbrushes, folders, binders, glue sticks, crayons, paper, notebooks, pencils, and markers onto my cart last week, I was overcome by the generosity of the UUC congregation and the amazing impact that can be had when 15 youth speak up in support of equal education and opportunity for every student in our community.