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Serenity project outfits homeless students

Caring people in the community are invited to help meet the back-to-school needs of children who are clients of Serenity House family services.

"It's essential for our kids to be prepared to go back to school, but families recovering from homelessness are hard pressed to provide all the necessities," said children's case manager Gwen McNeir.

The Back-to-School project started about seven years ago when a first-grader in a tattered dress met her teacher Gloria Bond at Hamilton Elementary in Port Angeles.

Bond shared the child's circumstances with her friends at the Port Angeles Church of Christ; they responded by outfitting the child and her siblings.

The following year, they connected with Kim Leach, then a new Serenity House of Clallam County caseworker.

Last year the Back-to-School project served about 70 students, ranging from preschool to high school.

This year, members of the Church of Christ are sponsoring 25 of the children, with more children waiting for sponsors. Similar to holiday Angel Trees, sponsors choose a student to outfit. Children sponsored through the Church of Christ each receive new shoes, underwear, pants, a shirt and a backpack at a per-child cost ranging from $75 to $100 for teens to "quite a bit less for little guys," Bond said.

Using teachers' school supply lists, Serenity House volunteers and staff stuff the backpacks with what each child needs to have a successful start to the school year.

Supply costs escalate for students in middle and high school where some classes require specialty items such as scientific calculators costing more than $60.

To help, individuals, churches and organizations may sponsor a child or donate cash or supplies.

Donation bins are in both Serenity House resale stores, one in Sequim and another in Port Angeles (see box).

On Aug. 16, both stores will observe Back-to-School Sunday by donating a portion of that day's sales specifically to this project.

Jan Collins, a second-grade teacher at Hamilton, invites other area teachers to join her in volunteering at either of the stores that Sunday.

Anyone interested in donating, volunteering or sponsoring one or more students should call McNeir or volunteer coordinator Caroline Caldwell at the Serenity House administrative office, 452-7224.

Serenity House of the Clallam County's mission is preventing and eliminating homelessness in Clallam County. The private nonprofit agency began sheltering homeless adults in 1983 and now has more than a dozen programs to serve individuals and families of all ages.





How to help

Donation bins are available at both Serenity House resale stores: The Serenity Shop, 215 N. Sequim Ave. in Sequim, weekdays 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Saturdays 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; and Serenity House Thrift Store, 502 E. First St., Port Angeles, weekdays and Saturdays 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Both stores are observing Back-to-School Sunday by donating a portion of the Aug. 16 sales specifically to this project.

To volunteer time or sponsor a student, call Gwen McNeir at the Serenity House administrative office, 452-7224.

Donations also may be brought to the office at 2203 W. 18th St., Port Angeles, or mailed to P.O. Box 4047, Port Angeles 98363.



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