Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Church hopes to save school backpack program

Funding was cut for a program that helped low-income students at Chase Lake School

SCHOOLS | By Ashley Stewart
Herald writer
Chase Lake Community School Principal Karen Nilson looks through some of the school's Safety Net Program supplies, Friday, Aug. 17, 2012 at Chase Lake...

Purchase Photo Reprint Weekly Herald/CHRIS GOODENOW

Chase Lake Community School Principal Karen Nilson looks through some of the school's Safety Net Program supplies, Friday, Aug. 17, 2012 at Chase Lake Elementary School in Edmonds. The Safety Net Program, designed to help Chase Lake Community School families who live below the poverty line, has lost state funding and is in jeopardy of shutting down this school year. The program provides array of services to these families, including emergency meals at school, clothing, school supplies, transportation for students who are experiencing homelessness, an on-site food bank at the school, extra help with school work and before and after school childcare. Despite the lack of state funding, the school has received donations for the program, which will be used or donated to the families.

When news spread that a program devoted to providing basic needs for low-income students lost all of its funding, members of a local church pledged to help out.
Chase Lake Community School's Safety Net Program serves low-income and homeless students by providing meals, clothing, school supplies, transportation and help with homework. The program operates on an $8,000 grant but lost funding because of statewide cuts.
Members of Edmonds Lutheran Church, who say they share a partnership with the school, pledged to raise $4,000 to help lessen the blow.
Fifty-nine percent of Chase Lake Community School's students rely on free and reduced-price meals during the school week. The school started the weekend “bottomless backpack” program, funded through the Safety Net Program, to help ensure those same students get meals over the weekend.
Every Friday during the school year, select students stop by on their way to the bus and pick up backpacks and duffle bags filled with donated food to bring home to their families, then bring the emptied bags back on Monday. The program was serving 12 families when the past school year ended.
Church members, who collect food from grocery stores for the students, decided to raise money for Safety Net to keep the backpack program going in particular.
“It's so hard to imagine that there are people right here, in our neighborhood, who don't know if they are going to have breakfast Saturday morning,” said Suzy Baroud, the church's communications coordinator. “If (the funding) goes away, it would be disastrous.”
Safety Net facilitator Vonya King-Norton keeps school supplies, backpacks and a small supply of pants, tops, socks, underwear, gently used shoes, hats and gloves on hand for students in need and directs parents to community resources.
“These kids can come to school without worrying about food or clothes or things like that and can focus on their education,” King-Norton said.
The church has no plans for fundraising events but takes donations during Sunday morning services or at the main office.
They have raised half of the $4,000 goal so far and expect to meet their goal by the end of September.
How to help
Edmonds Lutheran Church seeks donations to save portions of Chase Lake Community School's Safety Net Program. To donate, mail a check made out to the Edmonds School District to Chase Lake school, 21603 84th Ave W, Edmonds, WA, 98026. More info: 425-744-8090