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Church’s charity mission: Part of the solution

Parent- student advocate Colleen Seydell shops for school uniforms for the students at Mark Twain Elementary once a month, she said. Children who show up for school without a uniform can borrow one for the day or buy the outfits for $2 to $5. The uniforms are organized by size and kept in the school’s welcome room. - Jacinda Howard/ The Mirror
Parent- student advocate Colleen Seydell shops for school uniforms for the students at Mark Twain Elementary once a month, she said. Children who show up for school without a uniform can borrow one for the day or buy the outfits for $2 to $5. The uniforms are organized by size and kept in the school’s welcome room.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/ The Mirror

Donations go to students and the homeless

Aid for the city’s low-income and homeless will come in the form of school uniforms and weekly dinners, thanks to the Federal Way Mission Church.

The church’s congregation is growing. Its pastor and primarily Korean congregation realized now is the time to reach out to Federal Way’s residents. The church plans to donate money to Valhalla and Mark Twain elementary schools to help low-income students purchase the school uniforms they are required to wear to school.

It will also provide funding to the Federal Way Community Caregiving Network to assist with its weekly dinners for the needy and homeless, church member Woody Ahn said.

“I’ve found out the needs are so great out there,” Ahn said.

The Federal Way Mission Church plans to contact other city organizations and possibly donate money to them as well, Ahn said.

“Our number one project is the homeless people and the poor,” Ahn said. “I hope our church is part of the solution to solving problems of the needy in Federal Way.”

Assisting the low-income population

Ahn contacted the Federal Way School District to inquire how a donation from the church could be useful to low-income students.

Families need assistance buying school supplies and uniforms, he was told. Seven of the district’s schools require uniforms; among those are Valhalla and Mark Twain Elementary schools.

Uniforms increase school spirit and unity, improve students’ self-image, raise the level of focus on learning and promote a sense of pride, according to Valhalla’s Web site, but they are also added expenses for families.

“They just don’t have the money to buy school uniforms,” Ahn said.

The church’s donations will provide some of the 63.2 percent low-income student population at Valhalla and 76.1 percent low-income population at Mark Twain with clothing they can don for school.

Mark Twain Elementary has an enrollment of roughly 450 students, principal Doug Rutherford said. The turnover rate is 50 percent, he said. New students are consistently enrolling at Mark Twain. Many of the students’ families have just moved to the area and need assistance purchasing uniforms for their children, Rutherford said.

“We have a very high mobility,” he said. “A lot of students are in need of support.”

Many of the families do not have funding for uniforms and some children only have one pair of pants or one shirt to wear to school, Rutherford said.

The school solicits donations for supplies and uniforms. Parent-student advocate Colleen Seydell shops for discounted uniform items, such as polo shirts and khakis, every month in an attempt to have outfits on hand for kids in emergencies, Rutherford said.

“You can’t come to school without a uniform on,” Seydell said.

Rutherford said the church’s donations will greatly benefit the students at his school.

“Any support we can give (the students’ families), they really appreciate,” Rutherford said.

Helping the homeless

Students at Mark Twain and Valhalla are not the only Federal Way residents in need of a little support.

The church also plans to contribute funding to the Federal Way Community Caregiving Network, which hosts three weekly dinners for the needy and homeless. Approximately 245 people are served weekly by the caregiving network, Federal Way resident Hope Elder said.

“We have a budget of over $60,000 a year,” Elder said.

The caregiving network would not be able to host weekly dinners or assist with rent and gasoline expenses without the help of the city’s many churches, she said.

“It’s the churches that keep us going,” Elder said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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