NOTE: This article first appeared on the site Readiness to Learn. You may read it here...
A young girl walks through the halls of the community center, greeted by friends and familiar faces. She makes her way to her evening session at Tiger Martial Arts, part of her years-long curriculum in pursuing her Junior Black Belt. Alongside her is her mom, pursuing her own black belt simultaneously. This is how Logan and her mom, Tracy, would eventually connect with Readiness To Learn. “There were always people in there getting help with things they needed,'' says Logan as she reflects on pre-Covid days at the Center, taking classes just a few doors down from RTL. As part of Logan's current standing as a Red Belt, she is required to lead a service project. She and her mom have chosen to volunteer as the donation drop-box managers for this year's Back To School supply drive and fundraiser. “Last year was a weird school year and I wanted to help,” says Logan, after acknowledging that she has several friends in the community who look to RTL for support for supplies.
The Back To School program is one of many Whidbey community efforts launched by local Lynn Willeford just over twenty years ago. RTL was asked to facilitate the program and it carries on as one of Lynn’s many legacy programs in South Whidbey. The drive, which usually hosts a school supply “free store” at the Community Center as well as a fundraiser, pivoted last year to adapt materials and structure to meet the needs of online learning. Staff and volunteers adapted quickly to create delivery routes and organize a schedule of porch drop-offs. “Last year it was not a priority to have a backpack,” says Executive Director Gail LaVassar. “This year we are happy to be back at the Center and supporting kids being back in school!” Gail adds that the program also allows for RTL to identify and provide support for children who are experiencing homelessness and housing instability.
Logan and Tracy are hard at work creating drop boxes to be placed around the island at places like Casey’s Crafts and Red Apple. Each box will have a sheet affixed to it, listing the needs of students. Community members can drop off new supplies in the bins as well as scan a QR code on the sheet that will lead to an online donation portal. Donations will go to fund the year-round cache of school supplies available at the Family Resource Center. The drive will last through the month of August. Upon completion the bins will be returned to the Community Center. Logan is keeping a journal of the service project and will submit it to her sensei at the end of the project as she prepares for her black belt, a journey that is six years in the making.