There are about 15 million children living below the poverty line in the U.S. However, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, even that large number greatly underestimates how many families struggle to make ends meet. As a result, there are likely twice as many children, or 43 percent, living in low-income families where even basic necessities can be a challenge to afford.
What’s more, researchers have discovered that poverty is the biggest threat to children’s well-being. Therefore, teachers who see these children every day can make a big difference in their school experience and overall well-being. And for them, a little can often go a long way.
On Feb. 27, a reddit user, who goes by the handle Terevok, published a post about the effort his wife, a kindergarten teacher, and some of her colleagues had made in order to help students in need at their school.
The teachers created a “comfort closet” to help low-income students at their school get self-care items they may need. According to the post, teachers at the school—which is pre-kindergarten through 8th grade—stock the closet with hygiene products and clothes. They purchase the items using their own money, and have also received donations from parents and some local businesses.
The closet contains clothing, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, combs, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, toothbrushes and soap. These are all items that can help students feel more comfortable at school every day—as anyone who’s lived through adolescence knows how embarrassing it can be to find yourself in need of deodorant in the middle of a school day!
Here’s the photo the teacher’s husband shared of the stocked “comfort closet,” which he said is housed in an old, unused locker room at the school.
Terevok responded to forum users asking how they could get involved and help the school. He wrote that school policy at the 600-student school can make accepting non-local donations difficult, but he mentioned he could look into it further.
We have reached out to him for more details about his wife’s efforts and how interested parties may get involved, and we will update our story as we receive more information.
In addition to asking how they can help, many people have responded in the forum thread with their own heartwarming stories of people going the extra mile for those in need.
Reddit user j_andrew_H shared that his friend teaches in a low-income area at a school that has a similar closet set up.
“Some of these kids simply don’t have clean properly fitting clothes to wear,” he wrote. “The teachers do all of this in a way that saves the child from embarrassment and simply hooks them up so they can hopefully focus on learning in school without at least some of the additional stress they live with.”
Other Teachers Going Above And Beyond
In December 2017, we wrote about a custodian at a Georgia high school who had a similar idea. Carolyn Collins collects clothes, school supplies and food. She stores the items in a closet in the cafeteria, and offers them to homeless and needy students.
[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sspXAXh985k&=&feature=youtu.be” /]
Other schools implement “share tables” that serve a dual purpose of cutting back on food waste and feeding hungry kids.
Students are encouraged to drop off any food or drink they don’t want at the table, which other kids are then free to take from throughout the day.
Whatever is left at the end of the day goes to a local food bank or charity. It sounds a bit like a little lending libraries—but for food!
And in Detroit, there’s a junior-high teacher who keeps “menstruation care packs” on hand for any female students who get their period at school
Kristin Heavner, a teacher at University Preparatory Academy Middle School in Detroit, stuffs stylish makeup bags with pads, tampons, panty liners and wet wipes for adolescent girls at her school—with the hope that they help young girls feel more comfortable and prepared—and less embarrassed—about this inevitable occurrence.
She shared a photo of the practical and cute packs on Facebook:
Bravo to Heavner for her awesome idea! We hope other teachers follow her lead.
Lend A Hand
For those of us who don’t struggle to buy basic necessities, the stories of these disadvantaged children definitely puts things in perspective. It’s a good reminder to check in with nearby schools serving lower-income areas to see how you and your family can help. To get started, there is a GoFundMe campaign accepting donations for the janitor’s care closet in Georgia.