As summer slowly winds its way towards September and fall Keizer households prepare for the upcoming school year. School supplies and new clothes are always on the shopping list in August. Kids look warily at the calendar while parents give a silent hooray.

While that scenario may be reality in many Keizer homes with school-age children, there are other households in which the onset of the school year is no reason to be cheerful.

Some kids will go to school without cold-weather coats or well-worn footwear that has seen better days. The fastest way to be bullied in school is to wear what other kids can easily ridicule: too small, too large, too dirty…young ones can be very cruel.

What one wears is superficial as opposed to hunger which is anything but. An empty belly is education’s nemesis. It is hard to learn lessons—at any age—when your mind keeps screaming “I’m hungry!” Fighting food insecurity is a constant challenge for too many of our neighbors.

Another impediment to doing well in school for some of our students is lack of proper school supplies. Each grade level in elementary school has its own suggested/required supplies. The price of some of those supplies can be out of reach for a low-income household.

We would hope that a booming state and national economy would rise many families out of the low-income category, but until (or unless) that happens we must help our fellow citizens. Keizer is a generous community and now is the time to prove it again.

One of the most successful philantrophic projects in recent years has been The McNary Kloset which is a in-school repository of clothing, food and hygiene products for high school students. A student in need can enter and ‘shop’ privately from the closet only with a school counselor. The Kloset has since been replicated at Whiteaker and Claggett Creek middle schools.

The Keizer Chamber Foundation oversees the collection of donated and new items and assures they stock up the three closets. The public is asked to donate clean clothes shoes in good repair; coats and jackets are especially needed with fall and winter coming. The Kloset also has food and hygiene products students in need can take. It is reported that the students who utilize The Kloset are humble and appreciative.

Donations for the Kloset can be delivered directly to McNary, Whiteaker or Claggett Creek schools. The Keizertimes office is a drop off point for McNary also while Copy Cats print shop on River Road is a drop off location for the two middle schools. All of us can look through our own closests and find one, if not more, items to donate.

Too many students in Keizer are eligible for the free lunch project at their school. One can conclude that food insecurity is an issue in their home. The Keizer Network of Women and other organizations (Marion County Fire District #1, Keizer Eagles, to name two) collect food to be delivered with toys during the Christmas holiday. But hunger does not know a season. A child hungry in December is hungry in September and May.

The generosity demonstrated in December should also happen at least twice during the school year. Full bellies means our kids will be attentive in class and ready to learn.

The Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, Assistance League Auxilliary and others hold school supply drives this time of year. The Keizertimes office is a donation spot for school supplies for those students in need.

The things that our most vulernable students need can be found in our own closet, at a discount store or in an aisle during a regular shopping trip. By helping make daily school life better for them, we better our own community.   —LAZ