Volunteers at a Tri-City nonprofit brought in 339,000 school supplies through October this year.
That might sound like a lot. But considering that the program serves almost 30,000 students across the Tri-Cities, the nonprofit’s organizers said it’s not nearly enough.
“That is nothing,” said volunteer Jeanette Fields of Kennewick. “It’s really hardly making an impact when you divide that out.”
Seniors Helping All Kids Education, or SHAKE, has served the community for 20 years — ever since kids at a local school were spotted searching through a garbage can, trying to find paper to do their homework, Fields said.
SHAKE’s wish list includes donations of school supplies, money and volunteers.
The nonprofit, which is part of Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, started at three schools, but now delivers supplies to each school except for recently-opened Rosalind Franklin Elementary School in Pasco. The group plans to deliver there next year.
Any student eligible for free or reduced lunch may receive school supplies from SHAKE.
Fields said 60 percent of students in the area qualify, with some schools seeing up to 95 percent of their students qualifying. SHAKE brings boxes of supplies to a school, and a teacher or counselor determines who to give them to.
SHAKE gave away 475 boxes of supplies when school started in August, and hopes to give away about half as much in January, Fields said. It also provided small toys to be given away as part of a school incentive program with Dollar Tree.
The supplies are appreciated by students, said Maureen Bell of Richland, a retired Kennewick School District librarian who now volunteers with SHAKE.
“When we let them know the supplies were available to them, there were just smiles on their faces,” she said.
The program relies on volunteers and has a core group of 15, Fields said. The average age of the volunteers in the group is 75, but Albertsons employees and others lend a hand when making deliveries.
“The boxes get very, very heavy, and we’re getting old, so we’re looking for younger people to help us,” she said.
A total of 41 volunteers worked on the August distribution, Fields said.
No one at SHAKE is paid, and it uses space donated by Emmanuel Baptist Church in Pasco, she said.
“If someone donates $50, we spend every dollar on school supplies,” she said.
The nonprofit suffered a setback when the space it used at the church was vandalized earlier this month. SHAKE did not lose any of its supplies, but it’s responsible for repairing two outside doors and locks, and an inside door and door frames.
“These are the type of ‘problems’ the nonprofits come up against that truly impacts the good we are trying to do,” volunteer Patt Salisbury of Kennewick said.
SHAKE continues to increase in popularity. Bell said it has grown from using one room for storage when she started volunteering eight years ago to three or four rooms now.
“I’m really excited to see how the community, over the years, has become involved with the program,” she said.
Call Fields at 509-735-2097 for information on donating.