Originally published: August 12, 2022
Volunteers assemble 5,000 personal hygiene kits for metro-area students
More than 400 United Way of the Midlands volunteers were busy assembling 5,000 personal hygiene kits for metro-area students in need Thursday at the Mid-America Center.
The kits, called Shine Bright boxes, contain full-size personal and dental hygiene products for students according to their gender, age and ethnic background, according to Shawna Forsberg, president and CEO of United Way of the Midlands. United Way checked with local school officials, who told the organization there was a need for hygiene products, since there are already community efforts that focus on collecting school supplies.
“It’s expensive to purchase a lot of these products for children,” she said.
The project, now in its second year, focuses on children entering kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade — students making the transition to school, middle school or high school, Forsberg said.
“We work it out so these kits will be delivered, and they’ll be delivered the first week of school” through school counselors who know which students come from lower income families, she said.
The volunteers who assembled kits Thursday represented 40 employers, many of whom offer paid leave for employees to spend helping with service projects.
Sharon Koch was one of five employees from Lamson Dugan & Murray Law Firm helping out.
“We have a mix of lawyers, administrative folks and law students with us today,” she said. “We’re big United Way supporters. It’s the least we can do for our city.”
Koch helped with the Shine Bright boxes last year, too, she said.
“I think it’s just a really important project for the students and people that need hygiene products,” she said. “It helps make you more successful and more confident about yourself.”
Kayleya Stanfield was one of seven Millard Lumber employees helping Thursday.
“I think it’s very helpful and very meaningful,” she said. “They can be more confident and more able to learn, because they’re not worried about their hygiene.”
Adolescents, especially, tend to be concerned about hygiene, Stanfield agreed.
“They’re very self-conscious about it,” she said.
Vicki Quaites-Ferris of the Empowerment Network was also there helping.
“It’s for a good cause,” she said.
Quaites-Ferris said she thinks parents appreciate it, as well as students — “especially if they have several children in the house — so this just helps take a bunch off their shoulders.”
Preparation for Shine Bright began several months ago, Forsberg said. United Way held special fundraisers and ordered products for the kits. Werner Enterprises helped with storage and transportation of kit items, and Turner Construction also helped with transportation. Other community sponsors included American Enterprise Group and Weiners LTD.
Now, United Way of the Midlands is gearing up for its Day of Caring, which will be held on Sept. 16. The event is UWM’s largest day of service and involves volunteer teams of all sizes tackling meaningful projects that address community and nonprofit needs across Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie counties, according to a description on the webpage at unitedwaymidlands.org/events. Organizations and individuals interested in a volunteer event can send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.