Kelly King, a representative of the Students in Transition program at the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, speaks to the Kenai Peninsula Association of Realtors about the duffel bag donations on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, at Kenai Catering in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kelly King, a representative of the Students in Transition program at the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, speaks to the Kenai Peninsula Association of Realtors about the duffel bag donations on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, at Kenai Catering in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A gift to look forward to

Kenai Peninsula Association of Realtors donates 40 bags to local students

At its annual year-end awards ceremony Thursday, the Kenai Peninsula Association of Realtors donated around 40 duffel bags filled with holiday gifts — including a variety of clothes and other items — to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Students in Transition program.

Students in Transition, which has been in operation for around 20 years, serves students across the district who do not have stable housing.

Kelly King and Nicole Murphy, who work with the Students in Transition program, spoke about the donation, thanking the Realtors association for continuing to support the program annually. This is the fifth year the Realtors have contributed duffels to students.

King said students with families are advantaged by having an adult to advocate for them. The unaccompanied youth served by Students in Transition lack that advantage. King said community support from groups like the Realtors association helps to build connections, “linking them with resources in the community and to groups who want to help support them.”

Most of the bags came with a wish list — these included both the needs and wants of a specific student. A new addition to the program this year were “generic” bags, accounting for some students who weren’t enrolled in Students in Transition prior to the collection of wish lists. Though King said while these may have been more difficult for the Realtors to fill and “a little impersonal,” the impact they make will be the same.

“I just keep thinking of how special it will be for those students that didn’t fill out a form and don’t think anything’s coming to them to be handed those bags,” King said.

A student set to benefit from one of the donated bags spoke about the value the bags can bring during the holiday season.

“Some of the students you do this for can’t and won’t get many presents outside of this project because the people in our lives don’t have the money to afford them or they may not have adults in their lives at all,” the student said. “Ultimately, these bags and the things you put inside them bring hope and happiness. Knowing they are coming gives us something to look forward to as the holidays approach.”

The donations’ greatest value is telling recipients they are seen and cared for, both King and Murphy reiterated after the ceremony.

“When they get it and they see it, it’s a really good thing for them,” Murphy said. “That they’re seen by somebody — somebody has intentionally got a way to care for them.”

King said the students often wonder why people who don’t know them would want to do anything for them. Efforts like those of the Realtors show there’s more support, concern and care out there than they realize.

King said that the partnership with the Realtors association came about when they asked the Students in Transition how they could help.

“Things like holidays and birthdays that come up, there’s often a lack of support for those important events,” she said. “We just felt like this was a really beautiful way to build into those kids’ lives at these special times of the year to have them feel supported and seen and recognized and equal to their peers.”

Murphy said that the bags will be distributed through winter break. Some will be distributed at events in the Students in Transition offices, some will be sent to schools — all will be delivered into the hands of a student in need.

King said individuals or organizations that want to support the Students in Transition program can reach out to their office at the George A. Navarre Administration Building. They can be reached by phone at 907-714-8869.

“There’s a variety of options for people that want to help,” she said.

For more information about the Kenai Peninsula Association of Realtors, visit their Facebook page.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Robert Winter loads duffel bags into a car, part of a donation by the Kenai Peninsula Association of Realtors to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Students in Transition Program on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, at Kenai Catering in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Robert Winter loads duffel bags into a car, part of a donation by the Kenai Peninsula Association of Realtors to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Students in Transition Program on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, at Kenai Catering in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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