Each year in Washington state, 40,000 students in public schools live the struggle of trying to obtain educations while experiencing homelessness. These children and their families must deal with the challenges of day-to-day life without stable shelter and sustenance while scrambling to get pencils, notebooks, calculators and other supplies needed in modern classrooms.

In Puget Sound, where the homeless crisis is acutely felt, thousands of volunteers and charity workers have aligned to help provide these children with new backpacks filled with the basic tools of learning.

Susan Switzer, a volunteer with the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, helps address this need at the Kenmore shelter of the charity Hopelink. Dozens of children in this emergency family shelter every summer await watch the fall start of school while their families attempt to find long-term places to live.

Switzer and her fellow parishioners have stepped in to help these students start the school year with the pride of being fully prepared. The congregation of about  76 donates water bottles, notebooks, markers and other basics for children across the school-age spectrum, depending on the summertime population of the Hopelink shelter. Switzer and her teenage sons then spend hours sorting the supplies into dozens of new backpacks, then drop them off at the shelter’s supply room the week before the first class bell rings.

“You want them to start on that first day on the right foot, because these kids face enough challenges,” said Switzer, who is the daughter of a first-grade teacher. “Just taking away that barrier is very important. If they don’t have a box of Crayola markers to contribute to the pile, the kids get confused.”

For the 20th summer, The Seattle Times editorial board is helping Hopelink and other charities in King and Snohomish counties come to the aid of schoolchildren whose families cannot comfortably provide pencils, paper and other classroom needs. Readers’ donations will be sent directly to Hopelink, the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness and YWCA Seattle-King-Snohomish to provide equity for an educational system which must be accessible to all children.

HELP BUY SCHOOL SUPPLIES: Give online; email questions to ffn@seattletimes.com; or send checks to: The Seattle Times School-Supply Drive, P.O. Box C-11025, Seattle, WA 98111