Our Voice: Giving thanks for people helping kids

While there still are plenty of weeks left for families to enjoy their summer break, it won't be long before a new school year begins.

Judging by the stock of school supplies on retailers' shelves, parents can't wander into a store without being reminded that there is some shopping to do.

Every public school expects students to be prepared with their own backpacks, paper, pencils, pens and other tools to help them in the classroom. For many families, however, providing even the most basic school supplies is a financial burden.

That's why we are thankful this week for the organizations that think ahead and gather school supplies for needy families way before school starts.

Two noteworthy groups are the Salvation Army and the SHAKE program, which stands for Seniors Helping All Kids' Education.

It is part of the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) through Catholic Charities, and this is its 20th year of providing school supplies to kids in Benton and Franklin counties.

The supply drives for both charities end in a few weeks, so people who want to donate should not put it off. Time is needed to gather the donations and distribute them before the first school bell rings.

The SHAKE school supply drive began July 14 and ends Aug. 10. Crayons, rulers, notebooks, and especially binders and backpacks, are needed in addition to reams of paper and pencils and paper.

Jeanette Fields, chairwoman of SHAKE program, said the group would like new items, but can accept slightly used items.

Fields estimated there are about 50 boxes in various locations set up for donations around the Tri-Cities. Many are at private businesses and churches, and Albertson's stores should have boxes as well. For a more complete list, check the Catholic Charities website at www.cfcsyakima.org and click on the Elder Services link to the RSVP site.

Once the supplies are gathered, they will be taken to 77 public schools, including elementary, middle and high schools.

Fields said they have a core group of about 20 volunteers in the program, but when it comes time to gather the supplies and distribute them, more help is needed.

The number of supplies given to each school is determined by the number of free and reduced lunches offered, she said.

The Salvation Army is another great organization that is working to gather school supplies for needy families. The public can donate at Key Bank, Sterling Bank, Yakima Federal Savings, Bank Reale, Coldwell Banker Tomlinson Associated Brokers, Banner Bank, U.S. Bank, Columbia River Bank, Windermere Real Estate, Three Rivers Family Medicine, Shopko and Fred Meyer.

Donations also can be made from 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at the Pasco Salvation Army office.

No child should start the first day of school feeling behind because he or she doesn't have any of the basic supplies needed. Donating some extra paper or crayons doesn't cost much, but it can make a huge difference to a child whose family is struggling.

So don't just rush past a school supply donation bin next time you are at the store. Take a minute to add to it. Your donations truly go to a great cause.