Every day, a child goes to school without a winter coat, wearing sneakers with holes in them or carrying their supplies in a paper bag because they lost their backpack. Others can’t see the chalkboard because their glasses are broken, fall behind in class because they can’t afford the assigned book or are habitually late for school because they don't have a simple alarm clock.
Our teachers, government social workers and staff at charitable organizations see these situations every day but they are usually not equipped to provide the short-term financial assistance necessary to help the child fulfill that particular need. Indeed, on its face, these situations may seem inconsequential to most people but that is not necessarily the case for the child. That’s because going without some of these basic items not only can affect that child’s ability to learn, but it can also seriously impact their personal self-esteem. My two siblings and I know this from personal experience.
Growing up in New York in the 1960’s, my family received a monthly welfare payment but it barely covered the cost of rent and food. That meant my two younger siblings and I often had to wear the same, dirty clothes to school, could not get that painful cavity filled or did not participate in after-school activities because they required a fee. The prospect of walking through the halls with holes in our pants or sitting at the lunch table with nothing to eat was a great source of embarrassment to us. Sometimes, to avoid the shame, we skipped school altogether.
My mother, Alice Fitzsimmons, saw our pain. So, she did whatever she could to pick up some extra cash to supplement the welfare check. She would clean a neighbor’s house or just borrow the money from a friend. And when she got that money, we’d go shopping! To this day I can recall the exhilarating feeling of getting onto the school bus in a new, freshly ironed shirt or sporting a new haircut. Maybe my brother could purchase new soccer shoes so he could try out for the team or my sister could get new shoes. In the grand scheme of things, these may not have been the most crucial items in the world but, to us, it lifted our spirits and made us feel normal in front of our classmates.
My mother is no longer with us, but there are still many parents who wish to provide their children with a simple, relatively inexpensive item but cannot afford to do so. That is why we have formed “Alice’s Kids.”
Alice’s Kids is a non-profit organization that will provide short term financial assistance to children with an immediate need. Relying on referrals from school staff, charitable organizations, government social workers and churches, Alice’s Kids will provide a child with a gift card worth between $25-50 to purchase the needed item. We will not ask the child’s name, the process will be totally anonymous. We will simply review the request from the referring agent and provide the agent with the gift card, who will then pass it on to the child and/or their parents. We would then ask the referring agent to inform Alice’s Kids when the item has been purchased, if that is possible.
Our goal is to do what we can to raise the self esteem of a child in need. Children with healthy self esteem feel good about themselves. They do better in school. They are more successful.
We believe a little help can go a long way.