According to a survey by the National Retail Foundation, in 2018 the average parent of elementary school-age kids spent nearly $125 on school supplies per student, excluding clothes and electronics (if you include those, the average is over $630). From pencils to lunch bags and backpacks, that can be an intimidating chunk of a paycheck. Schools are asking parents to contribute more and more of their day-to-day needs, including printer paper and ink. Even, in the case of one school, pre-stamped envelopes for teachers to use to communicate with parents. It’s not school greed, it’s their ever-shrinking budgets. But for a lot of low-income households, particularly those with multiple children, it’s too much.

Many cities and towns in the United States have assistance available for students unable to come prepared with school supplies in September. From backpack charities to small grants, help is out there. And in Anchorage, Alaska, it’s coming from an interesting source.

EasyPark is the parking service operated by the Anchorage Community Development Authority, regulating all public parking in the central business district of the city of nearly 300,000 people. On August 2, 2019, the organization entered into a partnership with HUGSS (Helping Us Give School Supplies), a program run by the Lutheran Social Services of Alaska.

Through the remainder of this summer, drivers given parking tickets by EasyPark can choose to either pay their $20 fine or have it waived if they donate school supplies to the program. Two hundred pencils, 100 pens, or a number of other exchanges will clear a ticket from the system, and HUGSS will distribute the supplies to students in grades K-12.

“Providing assistance by accepting school supply items for parking citations is a positive start in supporting our local students for a successful school year,” said EasyPark Parking Director Demetric Tuggle.

Parking tickets must be less than 30 days old to be eligible to be waived, and donations must be made in person at the EasyPark office, address 440 B Street, Anchorage, AK. The office is open on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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