Echo Glen students pass donations on to Toys for Tots

January 3, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

Every year before Christmas, during an otherwise routine staff meeting, Issaquah School District administrators and principals pass the proverbial hat for the residents of the Echo Glen Children’s Center.

While Echo Glen is part of the Issaquah district, the facility is one of the state’s juvenile detention facilities. The money donated by Issaquah school leaders usually goes into purchasing games for the residents, providing them with something to do during the Christmas break.

“It’s a really tough time for our kids,” Echo Glen Principal Michael Williams said.

“When school is out of session, the incarcerated children face a lot of downtime and so the games make a lot of difference during the holiday season,” said Sara Niegowski, executive director of communications for the district.

Generally, Williams said he invites a few female residents to come up and wrap gifts for the others. Last year, the girls suggested that while the games are appreciated, Echo Glen residents get plenty of donations, and that maybe the administration gifts could go to someone else. Williams liked the idea and, as he put it, ran it up the chain of command.

“We thought of a lot of things we could do,” he said.

After discussing the donations with his residents, the decision was made to donate any money coming from Issaquah schools to the Toys for Tots program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Some thought was given to donating the money to local food banks, but Williams said the students believe the food banks do fairly well during the holidays. Toys for Tots also gets plenty of donations, Williams said, but the students seemed to identify with that charity. Williams noted many of his students come from dysfunctional homes of one kind or another.

“It’s kind of bittersweet for them to be here,” he said.

It is obviously true that they are incarcerated, but Williams said they also have regular meals and a warm bed to sleep in, things they might not have had previously. Games and toys are definitely extras for them, which Williams said might be why they decided to go with Toys for Tots.

All in all, Echo Glen’s students passed on about $400 to Toys for Tots.

“It’s great that the kids are not forgotten,” Williams said.

But he added he was glad they had decided to help others.

“This is really a significant gesture,” Niegowski said.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or tcorrigan@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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