Sequim ‘stuffs the bus’ for Back to School Fair

Two of dozens of people to make school-themed donations at Saturday’s Stuff the Bus event, Blake Glahel and Charlene Kelley returned to Office Depot to offer a second round of donations.

Said Glahel, “I used to be one of those kids.”

Volunteers gather school supplies in preparation for the annual Back to School Fair, set for 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28 at the Sequim Boys and Girls Club, 400 W. Fir St.

There, the donations will be used to fill backpacks and distributed to more than 600 children in Sequim. All school-aged children — from public or private schools or homeschool students — are welcome to come choose a backpack at the drive-through venue.

Immunizations for school children and COVID-19 vaccinations for ages 12 to adult will be available as well as school physicals and more.

Volunteers from various community groups, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, Sequim Kiwanis, Sequim Community Helping Kids, Sequim School District, and United Way of Clallam County, collaborate each year, raise funds and finally host the event.

“They say it takes a village, and it’s really true,” said Patsene Dashiell, a co-chair for the Back to School Fair.

“We start planning it in February or March, and we meet once a month to divide up all the tasks,” she said. “We started purchasing the school supplies and backpacks needed for the events early this year because with COVID there were shortages. Janet Gray at the Boys and Girls Club, she does the purchasing. She does the bulk shopping and coupon shopping. We call her the super shopper.”

Merrin Packer, Equity and Family Engagement Coordinator for Sequim School District, noted, “We not only get supplies donated, but we’ve also received quite a few monetary donations as well.”

Those interested in sponsorship or making a monetary donation can visit to make an online donation.

Once organizers collect the donations, they create backpacks with grade-appropriate supplies, Dashiell said.

“And then as people drive through, we have a system where we have color coded ribbons on their windshields that designate students and what grades they are in,” she said. It’s a really finely honed process.”

She said that they hang different styles of backpacks on a chain link fence so students can pick which one they’d like.

This year, as was true in 2020, will be a drive-through event to mitigate health concerns.

Families with students at Helen Haller Elementary School may drive through anytime between 10 a.m.-noon. Greywolf Elementary School families may drive through anytime between noon-2 p.m. Middle school and high school families, as well as Olympic Peninsula Academy families and Dungeness Virtual School families, may drive through anytime between 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sequim homeschool and private school may come at any time between 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

On Aug. 7, Office Depot staff had laid out the bins of school supplies by need so that it was easy for people to find, Sequim School District Superintendent Jane Pryne said.

“We are very grateful for all the donations,” said Pryne.

“We’re always excited that we can have events like these,” said Packer. “They really get the community involved and invested in the kids.”

Longtime Sequim school bus driver George Stuber was there Saturday as well, showing off a big yellow district bus in case any children wanted to take a look inside. He said he’s been driving a school bus for 29 years.

“I love to do this, because of the kids,” Stuber said.

Editor’s note: Patsene Dashiell is the wife of Gazette editor Michael Dashiell.

Blake Glahel and Charlene Kelley donate their second round of school supplies, purchased at Office Depot for Sequim's Back to School Fair, assisted by Merrin Packer, Equity and Family Engagement Coordinator for Sequim School District, on Aug. 6 during the Stuff the Bus event. Photo by Emily Matthiessen