Glue sticks … crayons … spiral notebooks …

My daughter is 13 years old and I have never seen face masks on a school supply list. This year has shown us that there is indeed a first time for everything, and here we are – shopping for child-sized face masks.

United Way of Charlotte County focuses our work on individuals and families who are living under the Federal Poverty Line or just above it, those we call ALICE. These Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed members of Charlotte County include folks who have been diligently scanning your groceries, caring for your aging relatives, and preparing your drive-thru sandwiches throughout this pandemic. They are our hard-working friends and neighbors, and they need our help now more than ever.

Charlotte County Public Schools has announced that staff and students will be required to wear masks or face coverings to the extent possible, yet many children from our ALICE families do not have masks. Ideally, each student will have at least five face coverings that can be worn throughout the week and washed over the weekend.

As many parents and caregivers struggle to make tough decisions about the upcoming school year, we use this opportunity to come together as a community to take one burden off their shoulders. For those families who choose to have their children attend school in person, finding and paying for child-sized face masks is just one more item on an overflowing to do list.

Many families in Charlotte County cannot afford the items on a typical school supply list. Imagine the stress of not only struggling to buy glue sticks, crayons and spiral notebooks, but also a required face covering that can add a level of safety for their child as well as his/her peers.

I know how amazing this community is, and how we rally together when times are tough. Now is one of those times for families with young children. United Way of Charlotte County, in partnership with the COAD Youth & Education Task Force, is collecting donations of child-sized face masks to fill this need.

We are asking community members to sew or buy and donate child-sized face coverings for students to wear while at school. Items donated must be clean, new, with kid-friendly patterns and colors. They can be cloth masks, disposable masks, buffs, etc. - any face covering that covers the mouth and nose. Shields will not work.

Items should be placed in a plastic bag and can be dropped off at the following locations:

Englewood Chamber, 601 South Indiana Ave., Englewood.

Port Charlotte United Methodist Church, 21075 Quesada Ave., Port Charlotte. Collection box is at the side entrance on Viscaya Avenue.

Pomegranate & Fig (note new address), 208 Tamiami Trail, Unit 111, Punta Gorda

This year has shown us that there is indeed a first time for everything, but it has also shown us the impact a small act of kindness can have on a community. Donating a mask is a small act of kindness that will have a big impact. Will you help our students mask up?

For more information, please call the United Way of Charlotte County at 941-627-3539.

Angie Matthiessen is the executive director of the United Way of Charlotte County.


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