The day started with a series of lines for Loretta Ornelas and her three grandchildren: a line to get around the parking lot of Wheat Ridge's Stevens Elementary, where cars had begun piling up along …
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The day started with a series of lines for Loretta Ornelas and her three grandchildren: a line to get around the parking lot of Wheat Ridge's Stevens Elementary, where cars had begun piling up along the front curb; a line to get inside the school; a line to get to the auditorium; and a line to get through the auditorium, where school supplies were being distributed.
But for Ornelas, falling into line with hundreds of other families was well worth it if it meant setting up her grandchildren for success.
In fact, the lines were no hassle at all.
“The organization's been amazing. We haven't been waiting an hour,” she said. “The Action Center has the best people.”
On Monday, Aug. 5, 988 students showed up to Stevens Elementary for the Action Center's annual school supply distribution, which invited families to the school from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. that Monday through Friday to pick up supplies, many of which were donated by Cardel Homes.
Each year, the event is open to county residents, district families and “anybody who feels they're in need,” Action Center communications coordinator Tawney Eisenbraun said.
“This is important for the kids; it helps them succeed in school, and they have the supplies to feel good and feel like they're a part of the class,” she said.
Having brought her grandchildren to the event the previous year, Ornelas had been looking forward to the event's return, she said. She and her family walked through the distribution with Superintendent Jason Glass, who kept up a Jeffco Public Schools tradition by showing his support at the event on Tuesday, Aug. 6.
“This is one way I can say 'thank you' on behalf of Jeffco Public Schools, to the Action Center and all of the volunteers and donors who have made this day happen,” he said. “Kids in Jeffco come from all kinds of backgrounds. It's so helpful to have an agency like the Action Center supporting families.”
Volunteer Programs Director Barbara Penning of the Action Center agreed, saying that with many in the county struggling to afford increasing rents and other expenses, the event represents a step toward easing families' financial burden.
“We want to support all people, and to make sure people feel respected,” she said.
In addition to providing a practical resource for parents, the distribution put smiles on students' faces as they picked out their favorite colored backpacks, binders and “bonus” school supply items in the auditorium.
“We're just here to hopefully get the best school supplies,” said seventh-grader James Basinger, a Ken Caryl Middle School student. “School supplies are kind of expensive, and this makes sure it's not as hard for families.”
Deer Creek Middle School and Ken Caryl Middle School students Sam Lyall and Sam Allin, who showed up to the event as volunteers, also praised the distribution for its fun energy and important contributions.
For them, those elements have brought them back to volunteer year after year, Allin said. “It was a great experience, and I'm excited to do it again.”
“It's really cool to be able to do this and interact with the kids,” he said.
The Action Center estimated the event would serve 5,000 students over the course of the week, making it the largest and widest-reaching school supply distribution in the county, Penning said.
But with roughly 25,000 other low-income district students still in need of supplies by her estimate, she praised schools, churches and the entire community for putting on similar events for their neighborhoods.
She likewise celebrated parents for reorganizing their work schedules and commuting to Wheat Ridge to ensure their children's success this school year.
“We've had so many parents coming in on their lunch breaks saying, 'I've got to do this for my kid,'” she said. “We're working together to change the framework of our community.”
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