Jefferson County real estate agents are collecting clothing and funds to help keep kids warm during the winter.
During the Jefferson County Association of Realtors’ first membership meeting of the year, they discussed conducting a clothing drive for area schools.
“When we spoke to the school districts, we found out that a lot of kids weren’t adequately clothed,” said Angela Wilkinson of Windermere Real Estate in Port Townsend. “Some kids were even coming to school with duct tape-wrapped shoes and no coats.”
Although school staff members were raising money from others, or donating their own money, the JCAR’s representatives contacted each district to find out what their needs were.
With snowfall Feb. 3-4 set to be followed by an additional round of snow through Feb. 8 and the ensuing weekend, the JCAR placed a priority on coats and warm clothes.
“Especially with that big storm coming in, we wanted to drop off what we had,” Wilkinson said. “But our clothing and donation drive remains ongoing throughout the month of February.”
Wilkinson said the Brinnon School has specifically requested assorted children’s shoes, pajamas, pants and shirts for kids in sizes 5-10, while Chimacum schools are asking for leggings and sweatpants in sizes 10-16, underwear for both boys and girls in sizes 12 and 14, and all sizes of socks.
“Help like this matters when 80 percent of our kids are on free and reduced-priced lunches,” Brinnon School District Superintendent Patricia Beathard said. “That’s got to be among the highest on the Olympic Peninsula.”
Beathard praised not only the JCAR but also the many community members who have pitched in with other donations, such as school supplies.
“We live in a very generous community,” Beathard said.
Quilcene School Counselor Tiffiny Jaber echoed Beathard’s sentiments about both the degree of need among her students and the community’s generous spirit.
Even with folks already giving to schools, staff members said more is always needed.
“Teenagers are easier because they can wear more adult-sized clothing,” Jaber said. “But we need more for little kids, in grades K-7. When it gets rainy, they need spare socks and shoes. If they have lunchtime accidents, they might need extra pants. It’s important they be able to carry on, and go home for the day with some dignity.”
Jaber said those families’ needs are compounded by the relative lack of local stores in south Jefferson County, as well as how far removed Quilcene and Brinnon are from the rest of the county, presenting an additional problem for those without reliable transportation.
In Chimacum, Amy Bartlett, an administrative assistant who works in special services for the school district, reported homeless students and families are a reality.
“We have a giant closet at the middle school that we try to keep stocked with coats, gloves and hats,” Bartlett said. “We even occasionally have prom dresses for those who need them because, beyond just our homeless families, we try to help support anyone in need among our students, just as a routine procedure.”
For that reason, Bartlett expressed appreciation to the JCAR for the expansiveness of their collection drive, soliciting donations on behalf of students who fall under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, as well as low-income students in general.
Goodwill in Silverdale offered what the JCAR deemed “huge discounts” on shoes and coats, a number of which Wilkinson already has picked up and distributed.
The JCAR has drop-off locations for new and lightly used clothing at Windermere Real Estate in Port Townsend, Port Ludlow and Brinnon, as well as John L. Scott and RE/MAX in Port Townsend, Coldwell Banker in Port Townsend and Port Ludlow, Caliber Home Loans in Port Hadlock, and Hadlock Realty.
Those who wish to write a check should make it payable to one of the school districts — Port Townsend, Chimacum, Quilcene or Brinnon — with a note in the memo for “McKinney-Vento/Kids in Need.”
“Please make sure both are noted, as they’re separate programs, and we want all kids to be able to participate,” Wilkinson said.