Snohomish County, Wash. – Dozens of homeless teens in Everett and Mill Creek, without a guardian, received backpacks filled with gifts and necessities this holiday season.
The lack of a guardian makes it difficult for homeless students to connect with support programs and resources during winter break. Other students may look forward to the time off from school, but for these kids it's time off from a warm building and hot meals.
Everett Public Schools’ Kids in Transitions (KIT) program helps all homeless youth attend school without barriers or interruption, but partnered with Community Transit employees to bring holiday cheer to those identified as “unaccompanied,” or without a legal guardian.
Community Transit employees organized a gift drive for these kids, working with Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) employees on a Giving Tree program at both agencies. Employees took tags from “giving trees” located in their offices and purchased items listed on the tags, including sports gear, cosmetics and warm clothing.
Donated items were gathered and Community Transit volunteers wrapped gifts and filled backpacks with presents, personal hygiene kits, snack bags, gift cards valued at around $25 and a $10 ORCA card for use on public transit.
Backpacks were delivered last week to four high schools in the district, with enough for students participating in online courses. School counselors gave backpacks to 105 students in the KIT program just before winter break.
Kelly Shepherd, Sequoia High School principal, expressed gratitude for the employees’ generosity and commitment to their Giving Tree programs. “I don’t know that words can capture the impact this has on our students,” she said. “They feel like they are
cared for, supported and in some cases have presents for the holidays for the first time in a while.”
This is the third year of a Giving Tree partnership between the agency, DSHS and Everett Public Schools. Over that time, 275 backpacks were provided to students.
Steve Winecoff, Community Transit employee, reflected on the agency’s third year of partnering with KIT. “Being able to give back is such an honor,” he said. “This is truly a team effort and is very much worth it.”
“I’m so proud that our employees choose year after year, to make contributions on their own, to those in need within our community,” said Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath.
Community Transit vendors, Init and Astute Solutions donated toward the purchase of the backpacks, Kind Snacks donated snacks and Target on Everett Mall Way donated gift cards. All other items were voluntarily purchased by employees of DSHS and Community Transit.
Community Transit is responsible for providing bus and paratransit service, vanpool and alternative commute options in Snohomish County. The agency is building a network of Swift bus rapid transit lines with Swift Blue Line along Highway 99 and the Swift Green Line between Canyon Park/Bothell and Boeing/Paine Field coming in 2019.