Board Member Profile: Sans Gilmore

We recently talked with NTEF Board Member Sans Gilmore. Enjoy our conversation below!

NTEF: How did you first become involved with NTEF?
Sans: I met Mike Jones about three years ago during a local marketing meeting. I came to understand the NTEF mission through Mike and started donating.

NTEF: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Sans: I enjoy gardening, agate hunting, and traveling with my wife. We have our garden planted for this year, including 270 garlic plants. Earlier this month, we took a four-day weekend trip to the Oregon coast to hunt for agates. We found about 20 pounds worth. Last weekend we spent four days with our daughter, who the US Dept of Agriculture recently hired as an entomologist in Blaine, WA.

NTEF: How do you believe the community can best support the work of NTEF, particularly now during COVID-19?
Sans: I am a firm believer in the NTEF mission. And, two of the best ways to help NTEF are to volunteer (e.g., to pack lunches) and donate. The volunteers meet at Columbia Bank in Lacey and organize and pack donated food for ongoing distribution to students. NTEF supports many homeless students and students who depend on NTEF for supplemental food, scholarships, etc. COVID-19 interrupted the usual support programs. However, the NTEF Board and other supporters are geniuses, and they figured out ways to help their students even when their students could not attend school on campus. Volunteers make the system work. Concerning donations, you don’t need to donate a lot. I suggest $10/month but make it a recurring donation. NTEF is a great program, and Mike Jones is a great leader.

Board Member Profile: Monty Sabin – Assistant Superintendent, North Thurston Public Schools 

We recently talked with Monty Sabin, Board Member and Assistant Superintendent at NTPS, to learn more about his involvement with NTEF and how to best support students and families during this time. Enjoy our conversation below.

NTEF: How did you first become involved with NTEF?
Monty: I joined NTEF when I began working for North Thurston Public Schools in the Fall of 2015. I serve as the primary point of contact between the Foundation and the District.  It has been a wonderful group of people to be associated with during these past six years.

NTEF: What has been your experience as an educator during COVID-19 in terms of seeing the additional support students and families in the district need for remote learning?
Monty: Even for students in the best of home environments, the learning challenges and the supports required have been significant. There has been a need for assistance for technology, connectivity and emotional health support.

NTEF: How do you think the community can best support the work of NTEF, and what are the most critical needs currently?
Monty: The Foundation is always appreciative of donations of money and people’s time when they provide service. It appears the need has never been greater than now to provide support for families and their children that have struggled financially during the pandemic. They need support in various ways, such as supplies for their children and housing for their families.

NTEF: What are some hobbies and activities you enjoy in your spare time?
Monty: I enjoy hiking, kayaking, exercising, reading non-fiction and spending time with my wife, Sonia.


North Thurston Education Foundation Asks the Community to Help Bridge the Gap and Meet a Need Today

In North Thurston Public Schools, there are currently 6,314 low-income students and 512 of these students are McKinney Vento students, meaning these students lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. This definition also includes children and youth who share the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason.

At the same time, median U.S. household income is rising by 6.8%, and poverty rates are falling, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many households have more disposable income than ever due to canceled travel plans, less eating out, and recent stimulus checks.

So while many are doing better than ever, there are still many in need, and that gap is getting wider every day.The North Thurston Education Foundation is asking the community to do something to bridge the gap!

Between now and June 30, you can help meet a need today for students and families in North Thurston Public Schools who urgently need help with the basics such as paying rent, gas money, buying groceries and school supplies.

All dollars donated will go immediately into the community through one of the following programs administered by North Thurston Education Foundation:

Food Security
Your donation will go directly toward supporting the nutrition needs of students in the evening and on weekends.

School Supplies
Students learning in multiple locations due to childcare needs, for example, alternating days at their grandparents/neighbors, may need more than one set of school supplies.

The return to in-person learning will require students to have a personal set of school supplies for in-person and a separate set at home. School supplies are significantly more expensive outside of the “back to school” sales season.

The cost of gas can prevent families from accessing the NTPS Family and Youth Resource Center resources and other community resources such as laundry, counseling, and food banks. Many students of all grades with IEPs are attending in-person learning. Rerouting bus service is like any change to a complex logistics network; it can take up to two weeks for a new transportation schedule. Having the most vulnerable students miss school for up to two weeks dramatically diminishes the likelihood of their return. Your donation will go directly toward gas cards for these vulnerable families.

Housing Security
Our Foundation will double your donation through a generous matching grant provided by Help Us Move In, a local non-profit that provides matching funds for rent and rental deposits.  The eviction moratorium is scheduled to end soon, which leads to extraordinary uncertainty for thousands of low-income families.

Sponsor A Graduating Senior
We don’t know what graduation will look like for the Class of 2021, but we know they will want to wear a cap and gown, even for a drive-up ceremony and photos. However, many students cannot afford the cap and gown fee. Your donation can go directly toward Sponsoring a Senior.

The Foundation works directly with the Student Navigators at North Thurston Public Schools to provide resources to families in need. It is easy to give at

For more information, contact Mike Jones, North Thurston Education Foundation Executive Director by calling (360) 790-6548 or emailing [email protected].

North Thurston Public School Profile: Leslie Van Leishout: Director of Student Support, NTPS

We recently talked with Leslie Van Leishout, Director of Student Support at NTPS, to learn more about her involvement with NTEF and how to best support students and families during this time. Here is our conversation below!

NTEF: How did you first become involved with NTEF?
Leslie: Before becoming the Director of Student Support six years ago, I was a teacher in the school system. In fact, I’ve been teaching at NTPS since 1998. I was the lucky recipient of a Learning Improvement Grant and used the grant for a really great anti-bullying campaign and training for students in my theatre class.

NTEF: Over the last year, during COVID-19, how have the needs of students and families in the district changed?
Leslie: A little over a year ago, we centralized our student support center to one location, our current Family & Youth Resource Center. It made it easier for families who were previously accessing resources from different schools and locations. Before COVID-19, we were seeing about 10 families a week come through. Since COVID-19, we have 75-100 families come through our drive-up center each week for resources. We are seeing people who have never required help before needing assistance due to loss of income and major life changes. It’s clear some people are hesitant to seek help, but we’re finding that they are more likely to access what they need from the school system instead of turning to state agencies or other organizations. We’re able to provide a supportive and accepting environment for students and their families and could not provide as many supplies as we do without the help of NTEF.

NTEF: How do you think the community can best support the efforts of NTEF?
Leslie: I hope we can increase awareness and let people know the FYRC Center exists and can be accessed. (*For assistance, families accessing support must have a student registered in the NTPS district.)  We are always accepting donations, and our Center is open on Tuesdays from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.for donations. If someone wants to donate but isn’t able to make it at that time, they can contact us to set up an appointment for drop-off. Donating to 501c3 organizations like NTEF is also a great way to help because the funds go directly to meet a significant need in our community.

NTEF: What are some of the most critical needs at the moment?
Leslie: We always need supplies like paper towels, toilet paper, baby wipes, diapers and laundry detergent and laundry pods. While we currently aren’t accepting used clothing, we accept new clothing still in its package and always need Youth L and XL (16-18-year-old) sweatpants and sweatshirts as well as undergarments. You can always check our website for a list of our current needs.

Emergency Rent Assistance

Since the COVID-19 Pandemic hit, community members have asked us how they can help families hit hard by the crisis with emergency rent assistance.

North Thurston Education Foundation works with community partners daily to prevent homelessness. We partner with an organization called Help Us Move In (HUMI). For every dollar we receive in donations toward rent assistance, HUMI will match a dollar. North Thurston Public Schools McKinney Vento staff pre-screen families for this program, and then they are referred to NTEF for funding. Thanks to this program, hundreds of kids and their families don’t have to worry about where they will sleep at night.

Learn more about how you can double your donor dollars by calling NTEF’s Executive Director Mike Jones at (360) 790-6548 or emailing [email protected].

Timberline’s Class of 2002 Alumni Profile Features Our Board President, Blake Knoblauch!

Blake Knoblauch was nine years old when Horizons Elementary principal Gloria Hunter identified him as a leader among his peers and invited him to help her lead assemblies. It was a big deal to a little kid who would become a community leader and the new executive director of Lacey South Sound Chamber.

Horizons Elementary was brand new that year and adopted a unique instruction model that grouped two grade levels in the same classroom. Leaders from around the state visited the campus, and Mrs. Hunter enlisted Blake to give tours. “Superintendents and school board members wanted to see the new model in action, and thanks to Mrs. Hunter, that meant I got to interact with them even as a third-grader,” Blake explains.

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Did You Know?

The 2020 Thurston County homeless census found that 995 individuals experienced homelessness – living unsheltered or in emergency or transitional housing. This is a 24 percent increase over 2019 and is the highest count since the homeless census efforts began in 2006.

Thurston County participates in a statewide annual “Point in Time Count of Homeless Persons” referred to as the “homeless census.” This census helps determine the number of homeless people in the county and its causes and assists in developing a comprehensive strategic response to the issue. School Districts report the number of students (pre-kindergarten through 12th grade) that experience homelessness during the school year to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Last school year, 655 North Thurston Public School students were homeless. 

Through Student Assitance Grants, NTEF can often assist families with housing deposits, rent payments, and other financial assistance to ensure students in the North Thurston School District have adequate and safe housing.

Want to help?
Consider a donation to NTEF to help students and families in the district avoid homelessness. In the past, many of our donors have donated government stimulus checks if they are in a position to do so.

Need Resources?
All students experiencing homelessness have rights to immediate school enrollment, priority in certain preschool programs, free meals at school and the right to obtain information regarding free services and transportation services. For additional information, visit

Stories of Impact

We recently were able to help a family and received this note: 

I want to show my family’s appreciation for the North Thurston Education Foundation’s help when my car broke down, and we were homeless. Getting my kids to school so they didn’t have to think about our living conditions was all that I prayed for, and God answered by sending the wonderful people of North Thurston Education Foundation to help our family. We were able to have heat in the car so the kids weren’t cold during the winter. I could also get the kids to their school performances for orchestra, band and choir. The new clothes helped so much.

Your Foundation has done so much to help our family achieve our children’s education goals during this year. We were already homeless when we lost everything in a hotel fire. You all helped to restore smiles to my children’s faces. I’m truly thankful to God for you all. God bless you all for all your generosity and hard work but most importantly, the love and compassion you showed my family and others in our time of need.

Thank you again so much!  

Here is a note from a family were able to assist with housing deposits: 
Thank you so much for the help with our deposit; it helped me, my wife, and four children get into a home that we could actually call home. It has made a big change for our family, and our children are so grateful not to have to sleep in our SUV, a shed, or someone else’s home.

Thanks to YOU, We are Able to Continue to Support NTPS Students and Families!

Hi Mike,

This is one of my favorite visuals of how NTEF has recently supported The Family & Youth Resource Center.  We had no pants available in our Kids Closet back in November, but thanks to the generosity of NTEF, this need was fulfilled!  Thank you, NTEF. We are so grateful for the continued support!

Jennifer Gould

North Thurston Public Schools, McKinney Vento Student Navigator – Timberline High School