‘Shine Bright’: Making ‘Way’ to help students

Originally published: March 25, 2022

‘Shine Bright’: Making ‘Way’ to help students

As prices rise due to inflation, many families are struggling to afford day-to-day household products while keeping up with bills and other expenses.

United Way of the Midlands is stepping in to help, and they brought a few hundred volunteers over to Council Bluffs this week to pack up boxes full of various hygiene products to be distributed to students in the Council Bluffs Community School District and Omaha Public Schools.

The boxes are part of United Way’s “Shine Bright” campaign, which is part of its Good on the Go — Care Kits for Kids program. The program raises funds in partnership with the two school districts to fund the boxes about twice a year. Each box contains an assortment of full-size hygiene products to help last students and their families a while. The products include laundry detergent, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, soap and more.

According to Carmen Steele, senior manager of communications for United Way, 400 volunteers from both sides of the Council Bluffs-Omaha metro area signed up to help pack 4,000 “Shine Bright” boxes at the Mid-America Center, which will be distributed to kindergarteners and sixth- and ninth-graders across the Council Bluffs and Omaha districts. Wednesday through today, the volunteers started assembling cardboard flats into boxes, packing them full and getting them stacked and ready to go out for delivery.

Matt Wallen, senior vice president of community impact and analytics at United Way of the Midlands, said in a press release that 20% of families in Iowa and Nebraska reported that they were struggling to make ends meet regarding regular household expenses.

“We’ve learned that families that were already trying to make ends meet, these economic pressures are making it even harder,” Forsberg said. “We know that food costs, gasoline costs and all those types of things are going up, so families have to make hard choices.”

Forsberg said the “Shine Bright” boxes are meant to help families make one less tough choice by making sure their kids have the hygiene products they need to be confident at school and also stay healthy.

John Staup of Omaha was one of the volunteers who helped pack the boxes Thursday morning. He works for Omaha Public Power District, and a large group of employees joined him across different shifts this week. He said many of them, including him, have kids in school, which makes the cause even more important to the group. Staup volunteered at the last boxing event in August, and he’ll be there to do it again when the time comes.

“These are critical things that families need to keep their lives going,” he said. “And it feels good to be able to help out wherever we can.”

Forsberg said United Way will be organizing another “Shine Bright” box packing event in August, and those interested can visit unitedwaymidlands.org/shinebright to sign up to volunteer or donate money to go towards future boxes for students. Forsberg said the boxes that were packed this week will be delivered to schools today, and should be in the hands of students by Monday.

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