Moses Lake school bus drivers prepare Christmas kits

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Bus drivers Maria Flores (left) and Charlene Johnson put together a toiletry kit as part of a Christmastime program to provide toiletry kits to foster kids and homeless kids in the Moses Lake schools.

MOSES LAKE — A school bus driver has a perspective on the world a lot of people do not have.

And they are typically the first and last school district employees to see a child during the course of a day.

“We see things people in the community don’t see,” said Charlene Johnson, who has been driving a school bus in Moses Lake for 14 years.

“Saying ‘good morning,’ or ‘have a good evening’ can make a difference,” Johnson added.

This year, a group of Moses Lake School District bus drivers are putting together 100 toiletry kits for foster kids and homeless kids — 50 kits for boys, and 50 for girls — complete with shampoo and conditioner, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, lotion and sanitizer, and the various different things young men and women need.

All in simple cloth toiletry bags some of the bus drivers spent a month making themselves.

“These are lined, washable and reversible,” said Maria Flores, who has been driving a school bus in Moses Lake for 15 years.

The bus drivers had five sewing machines going in their lounge, and there was “a lot of sewing and ironing,” Johnson said. They were so busy sewing, they completed 110 of them — 10 more than they needed.

The kits were intended for foster kids and homeless kids the district serves under the McKinney-Vento Act, a federal law which requires school districts to transport kids whose families become homeless to their “schools of origin” regardless of where they live in order to ensure some continuity and support in their lives.

“This is something that is theirs,” Johnson said. “Something that they can take with them.”

This is the first year the bus drivers have made toiletry kits. In November, the bus drivers held a canned food drive.

According to Flores, the toothpaste, toothbrushes, and dental floss was all donated by three Moses Lake dentists — Craig Harder, Tyrone Rodriguez and Sloan Jorgensen — while the Marriott Suites donated the toiletries.

While 100 of the kits will be delivered to kids early next week, the 10 additional kit bags will be saved for those kids who need them at other times of the year.

“This is a way we can help the students in our community,” Flores said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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