THE generosity of Seattle Times readers goes to school this week tucked in the backpacks they helped fill with school supplies.

Their donations to The Seattle Times Fund for the Needy equipped smiling students with the tools of learning.

Part of the magic is helping children from struggling families arrive for class ready to learn, just like everyone else. All of the strain and dread of standing out and being noticed evaporates with reader contributions.

For 14 summers the editorial page’s weekly requests between the Fourth of July and Labor Day to help others have received an extraordinary response: more than $551,000.

This year’s editorial-page campaign has raised $56,646 from 611 donors through last Friday.

The school-supply drive closes on Labor Day, but no contribution is ever marked tardy. Families coming into homeless shelters and emergency housing need school supplies throughout the year.

Please know there is plenty of time to contribute. The need has not diminished with a modest economic recovery.

Three excellent agencies convert reader donations into backpacks stuffed with grade-appropriate school supplies: Hopelink, the YWCA of Seattle-King County-Snohomish County and the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.

School supplies — the tools of learning — play a role in education, which empowers democracy and a functioning, vital government.

The school-supply drive starts on Fourth of July, and we believe Thomas Jefferson said “thank you” best:

“The reward of esteem, respect and gratitude (is) due those who devote their time and efforts to render the youths of every successive age fit governors for the next.”

Readers are invited to send a donation to The School Supply Drive of The Seattle Times Fund for the Needy, P.O. Box C-11025, Seattle, WA 98111. For donations via debit or credit card please go online at seati.ms/edschoolsupplies or send an email for details to pdelaney@seattletimes.com.