We all know a good education is important, especially for students who may not be in an ideal situation – it can be their ticket to a better a life and help keep them out of trouble. But for these kids, just getting to school may be a challenge, not to mention having the right supplies to be successful once there. Five years ago, Sue and Mike Austin started the The School Supply Project for children in need in the Chehalis School District to help these students be more successful. TJ Guyer Property Management has been helping them with their drive through donations for the past few years.
“We think this is an important cause because it helps fill a need in the community,” says Maggi Beckett, Office Coordinator for TJ Guyer. “All children should have the supplies required to begin their school year. With them, they will have a greater chance for academic success and more confidence.”
Sue was a school teacher for 35 years, during which time she started preparing backpacks for children in need at her school out of her own pocket, but she knew that many other kids needed help. So Mike and Sue asked their church to start collecting school supplies for children K-12 in the Chehalis School District. Each year, they fill backpacks with grade-appropriate supplies. This grew and grew until it became the large supply drive it is now – and it gets bigger every year.
“Last year was our first year on Facebook and it just kind of exploded,” Sue adds. “We had items donated from as far as Illinois last year and California this year.” She says that often relatives of local families who live elsewhere donate.
In 2016, there were 163 children in need in the school district who needed supplies. This year, there are 189. Children in need are defined as any student without their regular family or permanent home, including children who are displaced, living with other families, couch surfers or in foster homes.
In past years, Sue and Mike have put all the school supplies in their living room. “It got very hard to move around – it was an obstacle course,” Sue says. To smooth out the process, they built a three-car garage to give them more room to store all the supplies. With so many students, Sue and Mike are also very grateful for any help they can get.
“Kim Witham has helped us out many times by donating items,” Sue explains. She also said that Fred Lofgren, owner of TJ Guyer, has been donating supplies for years and they have a donation box located at their office at 1646 S Market Boulevard in Chehalis.
“We appreciate TJ Guyer’s involvement over the years,” says Sue. “The donation box is another way for to build awareness and have people learn about us, which in turn leads to more donations. It’s a great resource for us.”
Supplies Still Needed for 2018-19 School Year
This year, Sue and Mike currently have enough for 100 of the 189 backpacks needed. She says the backpacks they need now are the sturdier, heavy-duty backpacks for the middle and high school students. They are still in need of the following items as well:
- Crayons (box of 24)
- Colored pencils
- Notebook paper (wide and college ruled)
- Pocket folders (kids K-5)
- Scissors (blunt for young children, pointed for middle grades and 7.5-inch for the high school students)
You can also check their Facebook page, which has a complete list of materials needed for each school year. Sue says you can donate in-kind items as well as money for them to go and buy school supplies. If you donate money, they will buy items with it and send you the receipt if you wish so you can see what they purchased. If you wish to donate money, please go to their Facebook page.
Once the school supplies are picked up mid-August by the school district, student volunteers go through and put the materials into the backpacks. Then the principals of each school come and collect what is needed for their students.
If you would like to donate, you can drop off supplies at the TJ Guyer’s donation box now through August 20. For more information on what supplies are needed or to give a monetary donation, contact Sue and Mike Austin at 360-748-6708 or through the Facebook page.