By David Hotle, The JOURNAL
Residents at Halcyon House are ready to help students prepare to go back to school.
With a large percentage of Washington School District students qualifying for free or reduced cost lunches, and 6.5 percent meeting the qualifications to be homeless, the residents of Halcyon House have begun collecting school supplies for students in need.
According to Jean Knowles, counselor at Stewart Elementary, Halcyon House is holding the Beenblossom Backpack Benefit. She said this is in memory of her parents and Washington School District curriculum director Veta Thode?s parents, Reta and Earnie Beenblossom. She said the district had looked at the demographics and decided to team up with the retirement community to do something to try to help underpriveledged students.
?Their careers were spent in education,? she explained. ?Mom was a teacher and dad was a counselor. They loved kids and were actively involved with kids during their careers and even after their careers. Our parents were very passionate about making sure kids had what they needed. They wanted every one to have that success starting the school year.?
According to district statistics, 56 percent of the students at Stewart qualify for free or reduced cost lunches; 50 percent of the students at Lincoln Elementary; 41 percent of the students at Washington Middle School; and 36 percent of the students at Washington High School. Also, in the 2017-18 school year, there were 120 students in the district who were considered homeless.
Knowles remembers her parents would get the supply lists for the schools and fill five backpacks. People in the community are asked to do the same.
Knowles said the Halcyon House staff had found out the Beenblossoms had been helping children for years and wanted to do something to honor the legacy. The Beenblossom Backpack Benefit started in 2017. Knowles reported that last year?s drive earned about $6,000.
This year, the event is starting with $1,800 left over from last year. People wishing to help can bring new items or cash donations to the Halcyon House main office or the bistro. Items will be collected through Aug. 17. For a list of back-to-school items for each school, see the Washington Evening Journal?s Back to School special section.
?It is going to help kids in all grades,? Knowles said. ?Whichever back to school list they want to look at is perfect.?