There are children in such extreme poverty that they come to school unwashed, with dirty clothes.
Community Action Angels is trying to change that by creating cabinets in every school with free personal hygiene items. The cabinets, dubbed the Squeaky Clean Kids project, will be placed in nurse’s offices.
In Washington County, the group hopes to get enough donations this summer to set up cabinets in all 11 elementary schools. Later the project could be expanded to middle and high schools, if donors support the concept.
They want shampoo, soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent and feminine hygiene products. Also needed are toothbrushes, nail clippers, combs, deodorant and mouthwash. They will also accept beauty items, including nail polish, hair gel and hair clips. None of those products can be purchased with food stamps.
“They’re not available with the SNAP benefit, and a lot of times there are other bills that need to be paid: the electric bill, the rent,” said program coordinator Marcy Robinson.
When adults can’t afford hygiene products, children suffer.
“Then the kids are getting picked on at school because their clothes are not clean, they’re dirty, they smell,” Robinson said, adding that people will also notice a child wearing the same clothes day after day.
Teachers of younger children will refer them to the school nurse to get items from the cabinet.
“We’re hoping older children will find out these things are available and will go ask,” Robinson said.
In Washington County, 19.5 percent of children are living in poverty, according to the latest data.
Donations can be dropped off at Washington County EOC. The office is in the basement of the Washington County Municipal Center, 383 Broadway, Fort Edward.
“We will take anything,” Robinson said. “We’ve had the little hotel-size shampoos, a lot of them donated. If someone has a large donation and no way to get it here, I can pick it up.”
The goal is to collect 2,500 items by Sept. 1.