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Move over, Santa: NKSD is taking over
NORTH END — A total of 52 children who normally wouldn’t have a gift-filled Christmas will celebrate with minimum of a huge garbage bag toys.
Staff and students at North Kitsap High adopted the children through Kitsap Community Resources for the school’s annual Christmas Angles program toy drive.
Each child requested three toys and clothing items, but will receive gifts far beyond their wildest requests.
On Wednesday afternoon three pickups, jam-packed with the collected toys, pulled away from the high school enroute to Bremerton, where the donations were dropped off.
Tricycles, skateboards and weight sets were among the lot.
“Most get five to six toys and many clothing items,” said North’s Principal Kathy Prasch. “At least they’ll get a big black garbage bag of toys and many will get two or three.”
Nearly all the North Kitsap School District’s schools undergo efforts — food and toy drives and monetary fundraising — to help families and children who face financial challenges, especially during the holidays. Several of the schools donate to Poulsbo’s Fishline or Kingston’s ShareNet.
This year the need has grown exponentially.
Mark Ince, executive director of ShareNet, said the increase in demand is “incredible,” and outside assistance is more valuable than ever.
“We’ve had an 84 percent increase in usage of the food bank over 2007, and that strains the food bank’s ability to provide quality service and it makes these efforts all the more important,” he said.
The situation is the same at the Poulsbo-based food bank Fishline. Executive Director Karen Timkin said every effort helps, as the need is enormous. Fishline will provide some 450 to 500 children with $15,000 worth of toys.
“It’s huge, just incredibly huge. Homeless and the newly disenfranchised are the two biggest groups,” she said. “We’ve probably seen at least four times as many homeless as we saw all of last year and we still have half a month to go.”
Fortunately for the two aid organizations the schools are stepping up big time this year.
Wolfle Elementary students gathered 1,150 items in the school’s 10-day food drive. Kingston Middle Honor Society collected a giant helping of food and $344 for ShareNet and the Associated Student Body members are collecting food, clothes and toys for ShareNet.
On Monday Breidablik Elementary began collecting literally “a ton of food,” which will be donated to Fishline on Dec. 19. Once all the donations are in next week the students will weigh it to incorporate a little math.
“It’s totally about service to other people,” Breidablik’s Principal Lynn Jogrgenson said. “One of our goals is to learn locally and hopefully we’ll learn more about local people in need and how we can help them.”
Pearson Elementary students are collecting teddy bears for Toys for Tots. On Wednesday they’d collected 34 and they have a goal of 200.
Gordon Elementary staff and students start collecting food on Monday to donate to ShareNet.
Gordon’s Principal Claudia Alves understands how great the need is.
“This is the first year I’ve know we’ve literally had homeless families,” Alves said. “I’ve watched the free and reduced lunch rate go from 11 percent to 25 percent in the last eight years.”
The receiving food bank and thrift store directors glow with joy at the North End’s generosity, as their own resources are rapidly being drained by the growing demand.
“The community is making up the shortfall,” Ince said. “We’ve had an astonishing out pouring of support and that’s how we stay on track and we’re able to provide and meet the demand.”
Timkin said the efforts have been “wonderful” and Fishline’s shelves are full and more is still coming in.
“It will help carry us through January,” she said. “So many people have been so generous.”
NKSD teachers, principals and PTA’s also chip in to help their own.
For the third year North’s PTA is undertaking the Season of Giving, which is for kids who could use a “little pick me up.” Teachers nominate students and Prasch makes a list of all the chosen students, and their likes, needs and sizes. She gives the list, sans names, to the PTA, which puts together stockings with about $125 worth of gift cards and “stuff.” The last few days before the holiday break, Prasch calls the students into her office.
“They usually think they’re in trouble because they’re coming to my office,” Prasch said. “I can’t tell you how many kids have said, ‘Now I can give my mom a present.’ It’s pretty touching.”
Gordon staff gathers at Alves’ house today at 1 p.m. to build nine gingerbread houses and candy trains, which will be given to 18 students caught doing a random act of kindness at an assembly on Thursday. The students names are drawn from a hat during the assembly.
Alves said the students look forward to the give away every year, and even if their name isn’t selected they’re excited for their lucky classmates.
“There’s just stars in their eyes,” Alves said. “They’re just thrilled for whoever gets it.”