At a recent back-to-school event at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Seattle’s Rainier Valley, children lined up to receive backpacks filled with classroom necessities. They also received free haircuts to help them step into school with pride, thanks to the religious group Churchome and stylists’ Beyond Project

It was a bustling scene, with about 20 children getting back-to-school haircuts to start off the year looking sharp. In all, 240 families showed up for the promised free supplies for students. Principal Christopher N. Thomas had to dip into the extra supplies the school normally reserves for midyear aid. He also collected contact information to help students connect with other school leaders and community resources.

“We used all of our backpacks that we had in the school,” Thomas said.

Thomas said his school has long relied on donations of backpacks and class supplies to help students throughout the year. This year, he hopes enough donations arrive to replenish his storeroom when students show up during the year in need of essentials.

“We always have families who come through and say they need some resources,” he said, “so we always hold some supplies back to give them.”

Educators across our region can offer similar accounts. Children arrive from cash-strapped families who cannot afford to spend on notebooks, calculators and art supplies each classroom requires. Schools face an annual challenge to provide essentials in time to keep students enthusiastic about the possibilities of a fresh year. 

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Across King and Snohomish counties, Seattle Times readers help fill this tremendous need to provide classroom equity. For 20 years, the generosity shown in the annual school-supplies donation drive has equipped a generation of Puget Sound students with brand-new backpacks filled with the tools needed in today’s classroom. 

Donations to the fund drive go directly to three area agencies that work with homeless and disadvantaged families: YWCA Seattle-King-Snohomish, Hopelink and the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness

The annual donation drive runs until Labor Day. So far, readers have donated $80,832. Less than two weeks remain to reach the drive’s $110,000 goal. Every contribution will help a student stride into school confident that they are ready to learn, regardless of the means they come from. 

“I do think there’s a need,” Thomas said. “It does have a big impact just to see a child come walking in with the pride they have the right resources. They’re feeling good, and they’re ready to go for the year.” 

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