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Catoosa County Schools is giving community members a new way to connect to students and families in need.

On Monday, Dec. 10, the school district is expected to launch Purposity, an online portal through which locals can donate to meet the practical needs of their neighbors.

Developed by an Atlanta based nonprofit of the same name, the program works through a mobile app that enables those with a giving heart to scroll through item requests posted by nearby students and families.

Once a week, users will receive a single text detailing individuals' stories as well as their specific need — whether a clothing item or home supplies — giving anyone the option to help right from their smartphone.

"People want to help; this will just tell them how," said Melissa Holcombe, a social worker and homeless liaison for Catoosa County Schools.

When Holcombe put out the call for community members to sign up in order to kick-start a local launch of the program, it only took 48 hours to reach the 500-user goal, she said. Since then, the number of users registered has grown to more than 850, she added.

"My honest opinion is that Catoosa rocks when it comes to community support and family support," Holcombe said. "We're a community of givers."

Though the official launch has not yet arrived, the app has already pulled in numerous requests from Catoosa residents in need of support, requests for items such as shoes, work pants, winter coats and a twin-sized mattress.

Donors won't just be selecting items at random, Holcombe noted. Each request will come with a brief description of the recipient's situation written by someone working with the individual, giving users a "thumbnail sketch of who they're helping and why," she said.

The mattress, for example, was requested by a family that recently emerged from homelessness and are now working to settle into their own place. The winter coats were requested by another family who are still in the throes of homelessness but hoping to recover items lost in the shuffle from one couch to another, such as warm clothing for their two middle school-aged children.

All requests submitted through Purposity remain anonymous, and donor information is kept anonymous as well.

The price for each item is displayed through the app, and both shopping and shipping are handled by Purposity. Once the needed items are purchased by donors, an independent party will deliver them to the school district's central office in Ringgold so they can be passed on to the counselor at the appropriate school, ultimately making their way into the students' hands. The entire process should take about two days, said Holcombe.

The new program will work in conjunction with the Catoosa County Children's Fund, which seeks to respond to immediate physical needs such as clothing, food and school supplies, among others. With the bulk of those requests now addressed directly through Purposity, the Catoosa Children's Fund will be able to focus on meeting the long-term needs of students and their families, such as rent, utility and dental assistance, Holcombe explained.

"Catoosa County is a community of givers. We all play well together and we all collaborate together to help our families and help our kids," she said.

To sign up for Purposity Catoosa, whether as a donor or recipient, visit purposity.com.

Email Myron Madden at mmadden@timesfreepress.com.

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