AS the rising cost of living drives more families out of Seattle, a growing number of students in North and East King County need assistance starting off the school year on an equal footing.

The nonprofit Hopelinkis working feverishly to collect enough supplies for more than 2,000 kids — about 500 above last year’s count.

Hopelink is one of three area organizations that benefit from The Seattle Times’ annual school-supply drive.

A basic backpack stuffed with notebooks, pencils, highlighters and a ruler costs about $40. Contact Hopelink directly, or donate to the school supply drive of The Seattle Times’ Fund for the Needy.

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Hopelink is looking for community members to organize school-supply drives in their workplaces, churches and schools. Containers and posters are available to help make these efforts a success. So far, more than 24 businesses and community groups have stepped up to the challenge.

Supply drop-offs are requested by Aug. 1 at Hopelink’s service centers in Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Shoreline and Carnation. A list of needs is posted on the Kids Need School Supplies website,

A little compassion now goes a long way toward mending self-esteem issues that arise when students feel out of place.

“It also helps parents by removing additional financial strain at a time when they need assistance to make ends meet,” said Darrell Bulmer, Hopelink’s communications manager.

Fliers sent home with students at the end of this past school year assured struggling families children would not have to go to school empty-handed.

Thanks to the generosity of readers, Hopelink is more likely to meet its goal of providing every child in need his or her very own backpack.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).