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YMCA to host backpack, school supply drive for Eastside youth
The YMCAs on the Eastside will host a backpack and school supply drive for local youth in need from Aug. 5-23. The drive is in memory of Nicole Lehtinen, a foster youth whose life was cut short in an auto accident at the age of 16.
After her father died, 6-year-old Nicole became a foster child when her mother could no longer care for her. As she entered foster care, all she had from home was her backpack.
“When Nicole was placed in foster care, she was taken from school and not allowed to return home. All she had was her backpack,” said Joan Zefkeles, Nicole’s aunt. “Unfortunately, this is typical when kids are removed from unsafe homes. Nicole and others like her have to say goodbye to friends, family, teachers and activities, usually without any notice. They are often separated from siblings and may be placed in several temporary living arrangements. That’s why a backpack can be so special — it’s the one thing these kids can take with them.”
According to Treehouse, a Seattle resource that provides essentials as well as academic support for foster youth, there are between 1,300 to 1,500 children in foster care on any given day in King County.
In supporting this backpack drive, the YMCA is fulfilling its mission of strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. This is the fifth year of the backpack drive honoring Nicole.
Community members can support the drive by donating new backpacks and school supplies to Eastside YMCA’s beginning Aug. 5-23 at the Coal Creek, Bellevue, Sammamish, Snoqualmie and Lake Heights locations.
The Northshore YMCA and the Carol Edwards Center will accept donations through Aug. 3. The YMCA will distribute the backpacks to local non-profit organizations that support foster children and other youth in need, including Treehouse, Communities in Schools of Renton, Kirkland Teen Union Building (KTUB) and the Northshore School District.