Shine Bright packs personal hygiene kits for area students

Originally Published: August 11, 2023

Shine Bright packs personal hygiene kits for area students

Area families struggling to afford essentials may rest a little easier this year thanks to a true community effort.

Throughout the week, hundreds of community members gathered at the Mid-America Center to assemble nearly 5,000 essential hygiene kits for students in the Council Bluffs, Papillion La Vista and Omaha school districts as well as Jobs for America Graduate’s Nebraska students.

In its third year, Shine Bright is a partnership between United Way of the Midlands and area schools.

Shine Bright kits offer full-sized essential hygiene items — including soap, shampoo, conditioner and dental products — that help students feel good so they can succeed in the classroom and life, according to a news release. The boxes are distributed to students in need throughout the participating school districts.

“Kids in kindergarten through 12th grade will have the opportunity to get the hygiene kits whenever they need them,” said Tim Hamilton, chief of student and family services for the Council Bluffs Community School District. “We’ll have them available at all of our schools and so, really, it’s just one way we can help support families in need.”

This is the third year the Council Bluffs Community School District has partnered with United Way of the Midlands for Shine Bright.

“The first year we started small; this year, we’re going to gain 500 kits out of their work here,” Hamilton said.

The kits are kept at the Council Bluffs schools throughout the year until they run out.

“This is a really pivotal time in our community to be doing a project like Shine Bright, especially with the inflationary pressures impacting families across the Metro and across the state,” said Maureen Irish, director of strategic relationships at United Way of the Midlands. “It’s really hard for families to be able to afford essential hygiene items.”

The project takes a financial burden off families, she said.

“Any way that we can help families as they prepare for back to school — that can be a really stressful time as they’re looking at their budgets and trying to afford school supplies — this is just a great opportunity to be able to help them and ease the load and make sure that kids are going back to the school with confidence and feeling their best, and ready to learn for the new year,” Irish said.

Along with volunteers from various Omaha metro area businesses taking time to assemble the kits, United Way of the Midlands works with sponsors to gather the necessary items for the kits, including Google and Mid-America Center this year, among many others. Volunteers also helped sort and deliver packages.

“We have other partners that we work with that help supplement as well, but really, we like to have these products year-round for our kids,” Hamilton said.

He said the Council Bluffs Community School District is grateful for the partnership and work that is put into building these kits each year.

“It really is a sense of community when this comes together and really helping people that are in need,” Hamilton said. “We’re a school district, and so it doesn’t necessarily fall in line with what we do on an everyday basis, but if there’s kids or families who need this extra help, we want to make sure we can provide it, because we want our kids to be in school and ready to learn.”

United Way of the Midlands is always seeking new volunteers for its growing number of programs, such as its upcoming Day of Caring on Sept. 15. Visit for more information.

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