Dozens of volunteers from 29 Bellevue congregations, two service organizations and several businesses have been gathering at Stevenson Elementary School to pack nearly 1,700 backpacks for Bellevue students to use in the 2013-14 school year for the Good Start Back to School program.
Requests for the backpacks came from all 27 of the Bellevue School District schools this year, according to Congregations for Kids, the coalition of local groups that are assembling the backpacks. The requests came from all grade levels, from kindergarten to high school.
About 1,650 backpacks were requested, an increase of more than 100 from lst year, said Congregations for Kids chairwoman Nancy Jacobs. The program is in its 18th year.
Each backpack will be given privately to the student who needs it, and volunteers Wednesday were taking care to make sure that each backpack looked different -- so no one will be able to tell who got the free school supplies.
Patty Drew, project manager of the Good Start Back to School program, said that every year of the program, she runs into those who are in disbelief that there is a large need in Bellevue.
While Bellevue might have a reputation of affluence, numbers from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction show that about 21 percent -- or nearly 4,000 -- of the students in the district qualified for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch program in the 2011-12 school year, the most recent year posted in the state's report card. That same year, the district reported that 185 Bellevue students -- or 1 percent of the student population -- were homeless.
By the numbers
- 1,650 backpacks will be packed for the 2013-14 school year, an increase of about 100 from the year before
- The value of the supplies and backpacks were $56,835 last year.
- Congregations for Kids estimates that the supplies cost $26 for Kindergarten through 2nd grade, $38 for 3rd through 5th grades, $49 for middle school, and $46 for high school.
- Supplies include colored pencils, binders, composition books, simple and scientific calculators, USB drives, glue sticks, erasers and more.