Welcome Center rolls out the carpet for students, parents

On a not-too-terribly-hot day just a few weeks before schools re-opened, children ran through a spray of fire hose water and generally goofed off while their parents gleaned some valuable information for their family and children.

The Lebanon School District held its first back-to-school resource fair Aug. 16 at the district building in an effort to touch base with families who may need assistance for their children.

The fair was an initiation of the new process for how the district will hand out clothing, school supplies and weekend food backpacks for kids in need, said Julie Miller, community liaison for the district’s welcome center.

“We wanted to roll out our process and introduce everybody, but mostly we want this initial paperwork because that’s where everything is starting,” she said. 

“We’re not rolling over any weekend food backpack lists from the office. If you want to have one this year, we’re going to start all over again fresh and get an intake from you, and that’s where we’re going to start.”

After parents fill out an intake form indicating their needs, the district will follow up with each family to discuss more in depth how they can help, Miller said. 

“We’ll help you prioritize some of those needs and we’ll see what we can help you with, and then we’ll refer you to some agencies that maybe can help with some other things,” she said.

Last year, the food cost for 150 weekend packs was $20,000, all through donations, Miller said. There hadn’t been much record keeping in the past when families asked for help, so this new process will help the welcome center prioritize those with the greatest need.

After parents filled out intake forms at the fair, they ate hot dogs served by the Lebanon Fire District and browsed the many resource booths set up in the parking lot. Prizes were given away, games were available to play, and fresh-spun cotton candy was handed out.

Amanda Kizer, of Lebanon, has three children and heard about the event from a neighbor. After talking to representatives at the Samaritan Health Services booth, she learned she could take cooking classes with her kids through their C.H.E.F. (Culinary Health Education and Fitness) Program.

She agreed that families these days might be too busy to take advantage of some of the resources available, such as the cooking class, but just that morning as she prepared her daughter for a test-run in kindergarten, she realized how fast her kids were growing up.

“It made me stop and think about do I have enough one-on-one time with them, or are we doing enough family activities?” Kizer said. “It gave me a little reality check that I need to make sure I designate some time out for them because (they grow so fast).”

Other parents had a productive time at the fair while their kids played. 

One family was able to find a primary care provider, and another transferred their insurance from Washington to Oregon. Some indicated they were impressed with Jackson Street Youth Services for homeless kids, others were happy to learn they could receive supplies and services through The Elks.

The weekend backpack program is perhaps the welcome center’s most popular program. The backpacks break down throughout the year, or don’t get returned, so new backpacks are always a need, Miller said. 

“And we’re always looking for things to put in the backpacks (dry cereals, peanut butter, tuna fish, Mac n Cheese, etc),” she noted. “We’re not terribly proud of what we put in the backpacks, but it has to be shelf stable and it has to be something they will eat and can fix.” 

The staff at the welcome center hope to eventually begin a cooking class, and want to invite Lebanon’s medical students to create easy recipes from the items in the packs.

“This is such a wonderful community with lots of love and talent and money to give, and we’re just very lucky to have great partners that want to work with us,” Miller said.

Anyone interested in donating can call Julie Miller at (541) 401-0854; or drop off supplies or mail checks to Lebanon Schools Foundation with “backpack” or “kids in need” written in the memo line, to the Lebanon Community School District, 485 South 5th St.

The welcome center is part of the Lebanon School District’s student services, which got a makeover in January in an effort to give the space a friendlier atmosphere. 

For more information, see Lebanon Local’s story online at www.lebanonlocalnews.com/school-district-welcome-center-expanding-support-for-students-families.