Financial hardship affects families of all backgrounds and geographic areas, including those residing in the Lake Washington School District. At the Foundation, we are committed to finding innovative ways to remove barriers and promote stability for students, enabling them to reach their full potential. Sometimes the best way to accomplish this is to partner with another community organization.
One such opportunity arose in the fall of 2023, when the Foundation learned of a waitlist for Assistance League of the Eastside‘s Operation School Bell (OSB) Program. Now in its 30th year of operation in the Lake Washington School District, the OSB program has directed millions of dollars to support LWSD families over the years, by offering vouchers for shopping at local Fred Meyer stores.
“It came to our attention that the number of Lake Washington School District students requiring support for the 2022-2023 school year exceeded the budget of the Assistance League of the Eastside,” said Katy Philips, Executive Director of the Foundation. “Knowing that many families in our district rely on this program, we reached out to ALE to offer our partnership and ensure that every student in the district would have access to the support they need.”
To help bridge the funding gap, LWSF initially donated $10,000 to the Operation School Bell program. This donation allows children and their families to purchase items such as clothing, shoes, books, school supplies, medication and groceries.
It was later discovered through communication with the school district that thirty students were still on the program’s waiting list.
“Upon learning of these thirty students, we mobilized our community for additional support, and through generous donations, we were able to raise an additional $4,500 to cover these students.” shared Katy.
For the 2022-2023 school year, the Operation School Bell program distributed a total of 1,680 vouchers worth $150 each from Fred Meyer through school counselors to families in financial hardship. Lake Washington Schools Foundation was honored to be part of this effort.
As per ALE’s website, the goals of the OSB program include more than just providing material goods: “Operation School Bell provides far more than just what they purchase. It allows school children to fit in better with their peers and empowers them to reach their potential to learn with the appropriate resources, be healthy and have food on the table. It is our belief that all these items will contribute to a child’s self-esteem and a successful school experience.”
Reflecting on the success of this endeavor, Katy expressed, “It was due to the unwavering support of our community who believe in our efforts to remove barriers, support wellness, build connections, and enhance learning in the district that we were able to achieve this outcome,” she said. “I am immensely appreciative of their support.”