If you've come to our past few events, you know we've been collecting items to stock student resource pantries at local middle schools. We thought we'd give you a better idea of how they work and how you can continue to support schools in your neighborhoods. Given the proper resources and opportunities to be successful, all students can experience the power and freedom that results from a sound education.
Over 750 homeless students were identified in Buncombe County last year, the need for these items is greater than ever before. As the illustration on the right points out, it's hard to concentrate on successful learning and strive academically when you don't know if you'll eat that evening or be able to take a bath. Things such as backpacks, pencils, folders, etc. are often taken for granted by most students entering school on any given day. We know there are families within our schools who struggle to afford the essentials such as food, soap, shampoo, socks, and toilet paper.
"Hygiene items such as deodorant, toothpaste, and toothbrushes are always needed, especially for the older kids," says Eric Reaves, MSW, school social worker at Erwin Middle School and Buncombe County Early & Middle Colleges. "Also, food that doesn't require a stovetop is convenient — like microwave noodles, mac and cheese that can be microwaved in its containers, and granola bars."
"I second everything that Eric listed," adds Molly Pittman, MSW, LCSW, school social worker for Enka Middle School and Pisgah Elementary School. "Socks and underwear (male and female) are always helpful. Feminine hygiene products are also helpful."
Hands On Asheville-Buncombe, the volunteer center of United Way, has many convenient ways to help. You can assemble personal care kits (deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, hand sanitizer, etc.) alone, as a family, or with friends at home, work, your faith community, or anywhere. Hands On also manages the done-in-a-day MANNA Packs for Kids flex project and oversees United Way's annual school supply drive.