Rotary donates supplies to Kent schools

At a time when many parents are worried about providing their children with the necessary supplies to start the school year, the Kent Rotary club is doing its part to help out at two elementary schools in Kent.

Kent Rotary member Kay Cook poses with some of the 30 boxes of school supplies bought by Rotary members and delivered to the Kent and Neely-O’Brien elementary schools.

Kent Rotary member Kay Cook poses with some of the 30 boxes of school supplies bought by Rotary members and delivered to the Kent and Neely-O’Brien elementary schools.

At a time when many parents are worried about providing their children with the necessary supplies to start the school year, the Kent Rotary club is doing its part to help out at two elementary schools in Kent.

This past Monday, Kay Cook, a member and past president of Kent Rotary, delivered 30 boxes of pencils, pens, notebooks and crayons to Kent Elementary and Neely-O’Brien Elementary, all bought by Rotary members to make sure students had what they when classes begin.

It is the third year Cook has led the project.

“It was so awesome,” Cook said of this year’s haul, which nearly doubled last year’s donation of 16 boxes.

Cook said beginning in July, she would go through the Sunday newspaper advertisements and find the best deal on school supplies. Cook, an accounting consultant, would then make a spreadsheet to e-mail to the other members of the Rotary, informing them of where the best deals on school supplies were located.

“And then they went out and bought,” Cook said, adding that members only bought items that were on sale. “We have a blast doing it. It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt for us.”

According to Cook, who collects, sorts and labels the supplies, watching for sales over several months allowed Rotary members to save huge amounts of money. Cook said her figures indicate that the Rotary was able to purchase approximately $1,500 worth of school supplies for the low price of $300.

Cook said she believes nearly every one of the club’s 60 members contributed to the mountain of supplies.

“Everybody steps in and gets something,” she said. “It’s a really great way for some of our newer members to be involved quickly.”

Cook said she started looking into school supplies several years ago because of the high rates of reduced and free lunch at the two elementary schools.

“They need a little help to get started,” Cook said, adding that the troubled economy has made it even more difficult for some parents. “This year, the need is so much higher.”

Cook also said one the reasons she began the program was because some teachers were buying supplies out-of-pocket for students.

“I’d rather see the teacher use their money for enhanced-program stuff, not pencils and paper,” Cook said.

Kent Elementary Principal Sherilyn Ulland said the donated supplies means a lot to her school, which has a free and reduced lunch rate approaching 70 percent.

“When they arrive at school, many of them can’t afford school supplies,” Ulland said.

Ulland said the school’s family advocate would make sure the supplies went to students who needed them and added it can be embarrassing and distracting for students who do not have the proper supplies for the start of the year.

“It gives them a fresh start to know they have the supplies,” she said. “The amount of supplies the Rotary brought in has really helped us get the school year started on the right note.”

Cook said the program would continue “if I have anything to say about it” and urged others to buy supplies for their local elementary school.

“Give up a latte a week and go buy some supplies,” she said. “It makes a difference to those kids.

“How can you not support that?” she added.

But Cook admits the benefits are not only to the students she and the rest of Rotary will help. Even though she knows she will never see those 30 boxes of supplies be handed out or used, Cook said knowing the kids who need them will get their pencils and notebooks is very rewarding.

“This is like the best feel-good anyone can imagine,” she said.

Contact Brian Beckley at 253-872-6600 ext. 5054 or bbeckley@kentreporter.com


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