The Gig Harbor Kiwanis recently tallied up the annual Gear Up for School event. The club served 182 low-income Key Peninsula students this year, ranging from kindergarteners to eighth-graders.  

“It was our 17th year filling the Key Peninsula Middle School commons with the sounds of happy children and grateful parents and guardians,” said club member Daphne Frickelton. “Since 1997, we have helped 4,500 students start school ready to learn.” 

Gig Harbor Kiwanis Club sponsors “Gear Up” annually in August at KPMS, which club members turn into a free “department store for the needy.” They had bikes rebuilt at the Washington Corrections Center for Women by volunteer inmates, clothes from the CenturyLink warehouse and school supplies from Walgreens.  

Lindquist Dental Clinic staff Rebecca Wheeler and Jerry Danielson provided dental screening and fluoride varnish while dental tech Tiffany Forslund offered free dental screenings and fluoride sealants to the kids.  

Kiwanian Jim Bannon brought everything needed to serve hot dogs, chips and pop to families waiting in line. Water was provided by CenturyLink. 

Doors opened at 2 p.m. event and Kiwanis members accompanied kids and parents through the “store,” where each kid got a new knapsack filled with school supplies, new jeans, shirts, sweaters, underwear, socks, shorts, jackets and coats.  

Gear Up is always a very labor-intensive event. 

Frickelton noted, “We had 25 Kiwanians and five family members this year.” 

Angel Guild’s Dee Van Vleck and KPMS office co-manager Dianna Home, also an Angel Guild member, helped. Jan Kampbell, CenturyLink’s public relations and market development manager, joined the operation for the second year. Karen Jorgenson of Food BackPacks 4 Kids worked the front desk with a Kiwanian during the entire event. 

Payless Shoe Source brought longtime Gear Up volunteer Melissa Taylor, the Tacoma store manager, who was joined by her 2-week-old son. Beth Albertson, who volunteered last year, and new employee Brittaney Perez checked the size of every child’s foot to ensure they were properly fitted with new shoes. 

“We are so grateful to the Kohl’s Associates In Action Team, Melinda Makahanaloa, the Gig Harbor store manager, joined by Julia Linik, Alichia Pierce and Hilary Vergera,” Frickelton said. “Friends from Walgreens, Kristina Jenkins, University Place store; Kendra Griffin, Gig Harbor store manager, and Chris Rose, 6th Avenue store manager, were a great assist.” 

WCCW corrections officer J.J. Johnson tuned brand-new-looking bicycles for individual riders. A special fitting of bike helmets was done by KP Fire Department personnel Chuck West, Jason Learned and Tim Davis before kids were allowed to board their new bikes. The helmets were funded by the Angel Guild.

“The ‘Most Popular Gear Up Person 2014 Award’ goes to Dan Platt. He and his helpers served over 500 ice cream cones,” Frickelton said.

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