Submitted By Susan Bennett
A new program to help children in need will launch this fall due to a $100,000 commitment from The John E. and Aliese Price Foundation to the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties.
“This project is the first one in the foundation’s new philosophy of being proactive to identify social and education needs in the community and develop partnerships with other charitable organizations in order to make a greater impact. We chose the United Way because of our long-standing relationship with them, and their integrity and outstanding reputation for successful services to the community,” said Price Foundation President and CEO Kenneth P. Walker.
The United Way Gifts in Kind program will provide clothing, shoes, hygiene items and school supplies to children who may be struggling with homelessness or other challenges as identified by School District of Lee County social workers and school resource officers.
“This is a partnership among the United Way, the Lee County School District and The Price Foundation to provide support for our county’s neediest children so that they can have nice shoes, clothing and school supplies. These things are important for them to develop a positive self-image,” Walker said.
The United Way sources clothing, school supplies and hygiene items directly from manufacturers across the country. Items are also donated from the local community, according to Hannah Pelle, United Way’s Vice President of Community Impact, and the originator of the program.
For example, she recently acquired $49,000 worth of clothing for just a small shipping cost. It is anticipated that the $100,000 from the Price Foundation could generate as much as $3.2 million in goods to provide for the children because of the United Way’s special relationships with vendors and donors. “We’re talking about brand new items from top name brands like Nike, Calvin Klein, and Guess with the price tags still attached,” she said. “The manufacturers work with non-profits to donate these overstock and surplus items.
Walker said the Price Foundation will be allocating $25,000 per year for the next four years to the project with plans to continue after that, if the program is as successful as they believe it will be.
“This is part of our emphasis on helping children,” “They need to be able to focus on learning and developing self-confidence instead of worrying about not having enough school supplies or clothing. We want children to feel good about themselves,” Walker said.
“We believe this may be the first school district in the state with a resource like this,” Pelle said. “We are hoping this will become a model for other school districts to implement.”
Only social workers will have access to the Community Impact Center at the District office, and they will be able to check items out on a weekly basis.
“If they see that Johnny’s shoes are being held together with duct tape, then they can obtain new shoes for Johnny,” Pelle said.
With nearly 100,000 children in the Lee school system, Pelle estimated that a large portion of those children may need the services of the Community Impact Center, especially as so many families have been financially impacted by COVID-19.
“We are extremely grateful to The John E. & Aliese Price Foundation and the United Way for creating this unique program that will help our children succeed,” said Adam Molloy, Coordinator, Community Engagement of the Lee County School District.
The center expects to open when school begins this fall.