Photos by Kevin Pontsler/ Courtesy of Salvation Army
White Center students show off their new backpacks for the upcoming school year, courtesy of a $20,000 donation from Jean Renny. PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE OR SEE BELOW THE STORY FOR MORE

Donor gives White Center students $20K for back-to-school shopping

For many families of sufficient means, the back-to-school task of taking the kids to the mall for fancy new clothes and backpacks is standard ritual, and an exciting time for kids to select and show off their fashion sense. Many low-income students, on the other hand, never have that opportunity.

And that is where Mrs. Jean Renny steps in to save the day for many White Center children through her donations to the White Center Salvation Army.

On Tuesday morning, Aug. 20, 90 low-income White Center students were given $200 each to spend as they pleased at JC Penney in the Southcenter Mall with the aid of Salvation Army staff and volunteers.

In total, $20,000 was spent, and it all came from the personal coffers of Renny, a Seattleite in her 90s.

Renny “says she believes giving children a fresh start to the school year enables them to focus more on their education, rather than their ability to fit in,” according to the Salvation Army.

Due to health problems she was not able to attend the event, but a video and thank you cards signed by all 90 children were sent to her Seattle nursing home so she could share in the experience.

Donating to the White Center Salvation Army is nothing new for Renny. According to Lora Marini Baker with S.A., she started donating to their cause in 1988. In 2004, she started donating for back to school shopping at $5,000 a year, which helped out 43 kids. Her donation has only grown since then.

Baker said Renny grew up as an only child in an upper middle class family and “never went without new school clothing.” She and her late husband never had children of their own.

“She has no ties to White Center,” Baker said, “but loves helping children in this community. Her true desire is to make sure every child has something new to wear to school.”

The annual shopping event is organized by Major Raymond Erickson-King, officer in charge of the White Center Salvation Army branch.

“Every day we see kids at our community center with clothing and shoes that are worn out or don’t fit them properly,” Major Erickson-King said in a press release. “It gives a kid a feeling of confidence when they have their own new clothing and that confidence can help lead to success in school.”

Most of the kids who took part in the shopping spree also take part in additional Salvation Army programs according to Baker, “including after-school tutoring, athletic leagues, and evening/weekend meals, all provided free of charge to families in need.”

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