It was a humble launch: “Happy Fourth of July,” the headline read. “We have a favor to ask.”

The author of that editorial, published 21 summers ago, was Seattle Times editorial writer and columnist Lance Dickie. The request, to help equip area schoolchildren with back-to-school supplies.

Dickie got the idea when crayons and pencils started appearing alongside the nonperishable goods at the food bank where he volunteered, according to a 2009 column by then-editorial page editor Ryan Blethen.

“The kids saw new crayons, pens, pencils and notebooks,” Blethen quoted Dickie as saying. “Moms and dads saw welcome help with a back-to-school necessity.”

Dickie thought Times readers would be interested in pitching in. And, he was right.

Since that first editorial, readers have helped purchase well more than $1 million in much-needed school essentials for a generation of students in King and Snohomish counties. The first beneficiaries of Dickie’s and readers’ thoughtful generosity are long grown, but the tradition carries on.

Advertising

In a backpack’s worth of everyday utensils, Dickie saw the instruments of opportunity. Education is a civic virtue, he reminded readers. It is essential to individuals’ pursuit of happiness and our collective dream of a more just society.

“The liberating influences of education fuel America’s potent optimism,” he wrote.

The editorial board has carried on the tradition after Dickie’s 2014 retirement, writing in that handoff year, “Too many people talk about education as the great equalizer. Lance actually did something. You can too.”

HOW TO HELP: The easiest way to donate is online at st.news/schoolsupplydrive2020. Checks may also be sent to: The Seattle Times School-Supply Drive, P.O. Box C-11025, Seattle, WA 98111. Email questions about donations to ffn@seattletimes.com.