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How to Connect with Community Organizations That Help Students with Back-to-School Needs

Posted on August 10, 2022 at 6:00 am

By Crystal Miller

August is National Back to School Month. Starting a new year of school can require new clothes and school supplies, among other things.

Some families may need some extra help to provide these things for their students. If you are able to help, there are many ways you can donate to help support students achieve their best this school year. You can help fill up a backpack, supply new school clothes, and even provide nutritious meals.

The recent KHQ article “Spokane families struggle with food costs, food banks bracing for increase in need” shares some sobering statistics about food insecurity in the state of Washington. Here are some facts the article shares about hunger in our region:

  • 1 million Washington residents visited a food bank in the past year.
  • 1 in 10 Washingtonians consistently struggle with hunger.
  • 1 in 6 Washington kids live in a household that faces challenges putting enough food on the table.
  • 1 in 8 Washington residents live below the poverty line.
  • 1 in 8 Washingtonians relies on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to purchase food. Half of all people on SNAP are kids.
  • Washington state ranks 10th in the country for overall wealth and ranks 34th for food insecurity.
  • A donation of $5 can feed a family of three.

With these statistics in mind, I’ve put together a list of organizations and events that help provide students with food, school supplies, and the support they need to achieve their best this school year.

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Free Online Tutoring

If you have a student at home, the library can help your student prep for school at no cost!

Through our digital resource HelpNow, you can get live online tutoring from 2–10pm every day at no charge. You can also access practice tests, study tools, and online collaboration spaces any time.

HelpNow is a resource in our Digital Library, which is available to in-district library card holders.

Getting Ready for Kindergarten

If your student is heading to kindergarten this year or in the next several years, now is the time to get them ready! The library has resources, information, tips, and activities for parents to help their kids get ready for kindergarten.

Discover simple games and activities you can do to build your child’s skills in the areas of math, language, literacy, physical movement, social/emotional, cognitive and science on our Getting Ready for Kindergarten web page. These online resources are available on the internet for everyone.

Bite2Go from Second Harvest

Second Harvest reports that “Throughout Spokane County, 47 percent of students—and 55 percent of students in Spokane Public Schools—qualify for free and reduced-price meals” (Bite2Go Weekend Food Supplies For Kids).

We know that a healthy meal gives kids the energy they need to do their best at school. While many kids qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school, during weekends, kids may not receive the food they need at home. Second Harvest has a program to help with that.

The program is called Bite2Go, providing weekend food supplies for kids. If you’d like to learn more about helping and how to donate to send food home with hungry students in your community, visit the Bite2Go website where you can donate to help elementary, middle school, and high school students.

Unity in the Community

Unity in the Community recently completed their student school supply drive for the 2022–2023 school year. During the annual Unity in the Community Multicultural Celebration, they will be giving out free school supplies to students in grades K–8. The celebration will be at Riverfront Park on Saturday, August 20, 10am–4pm.

You can learn more, including how to donate, on the Unity in the Community website.

Communities in Schools

Communities in Schools, Spokane County, provides basic needs for students in grades K–12. They collect and distribute clothing closets, food pantries, hygiene supplies, and school supplies and have a need for baby clothes at some of their high school sites. To learn how to donate to their program, visit the Communities in Schools website.

Communities in Schools also provides the opportunity for community members to directly volunteer with students. Volunteers help keep students in school and on track to graduate on time. They offer three opportunities for volunteering:

  • PrimeTime Mentor: Just 30 minutes to 1 hour per week provides a positive influence, encouragement, and hope for young people trying to overcome challenges. Learn more about the PrimeTime Mentoring Program sponsored by STCU.
  • PrimeTime Tutor: Students can make great strides with extra academic support in reading and math.
  • Seasonal Volunteer Opportunities: Inquire about the various volunteer opportunities throughout the year on the Volunteer web page.

UGM’s Back-to-School Drive

Union Gospel Mission collects donations to help more than 60 school-age children at their shelters who have suffered homelessness, hunger, neglect, or even abuse. You can help them go to school happy and excited by adding their needs to your shopping list (Help Homeless Kids Get Back to School).

UGM accepts donations of gift cards and school supplies, or you can provide something from their specific wish list! Call the shelter to ask about their specific wish list at the numbers below.

Drop off donations at UGM’s women and children shelters:

  • Center for Women & Children, 196 W Haycraft Ave, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815, 208.665.4673
  • Crisis Shelter for Women & Children, 1515 E Illinois Ave, Spokane, WA 99207, 509.535.0486
  • Women’s Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall, 2828 W Mallon Ave, Spokane, WA 99201, 509.327.7737
  • UGM Administrative Offices (mark donations with “back to school”), 1224 E Trent Ave, Spokane, WA 99202, 509.535.8510

Tools 2 Schools

Tools 2 Schools is a backpack and school supply drive. A group of local organizations have come together with a mission to provide 2,000 students with a backpack filled with all the “tools” to succeed. Below is information from the Tools 2 Schools campaign on the ways you can give to the campaign.

Through August, you can donate to the KREM Cares ‘Tools 2 Schools’ campaign. That donation will go directly to partner non-profit Communities in Schools to purchase backpacks and supplies for kids in the community.

You can also donate through August at an area Office Depot in four locations at 1003 E 3rd Ave, Spokane; 4511 N Division St, Spokane; 14008 E Sprague Ave, Spokane Valley; and 261 W Canfield Ave, Coeur d’Alene.

You can donate August 16–22 at local Starbucks. They will have QR scan codes inside the cafes and at the drive through to use with your phones. Scan the QR code while grabbing your favorite cup of coffee to donate and help kids succeed in this school year.

Text the word ‘TOOLS’ to the Tools 2 Schools text line at 509.448.2000. They will send you a link right to your phone to donate. KREM will be taking ‘Tools 2 Schools’ donations through the month of August.

If you have a child in need of school supplies, Communities in Schools works with schools throughout our area to provide the ‘tools’ to kids and families that need the assistance. Ask your school if there is a Communities in Schools representative for your school.

Salvation Army Spokane’s Backpacks for Kids

The Salvation Army Spokane will distribute 4,000 new backpacks with school supplies to local school children in grades K–12, on August 17. The 13th annual ‘Backpacks for Kids’ event will be taking place at The Salvation Army, located at 222 E Indiana Ave in Spokane.

Whether you have a kiddo who is looking for support in the upcoming school year or you’re looking to donate and volunteer to help make a child’s school year a success, I hope this list provides some useful resources for you!

Librarian Crystal Miller

Crystal Miller is a Business and Career Development Librarian and has been working in libraries for 15 years. She has a master’s degree in library science from Simmons College and has worked at the Harvard Development Office Library, MIT Libraries, and the Coeur d’Alene Public Library. When she’s not at the library, she can be found at the dog park with her three fur babies or with a cookbook in hand, flipping through the pages, looking for the next recipe to try out.

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