"Bring the heat," a new post on Walker County Schools' Purposity app profile reads. "You can help a family keep warm with a space heater."
"Fashion and Function," a second one reads. "Kiddo needs shoes that fit for school."
After seeing organizations in surrounding counties benefit from the locally developed app, the school district has joined in to help provide donations for students in need.
The app, with the catchphrase "A community proving humanity is good," provides users with a catchy title and a short story about students and/or their families and a need that they personally have — a portable heater for their home or a new pair of shoes, for example.
Users are able to fund the requested item through a credit card payment, and the item is then purchased on Amazon and mailed to the school district for distribution.
Walker County Schools social worker Tricia Jackson said one of her favorite features of the program is that families are able to put in more personalized requests, such as pink shoes or camouflage bedding.
"In the past when we've asked for donations, they would get whatever they were given, and they were grateful for that, but now the child is able to get something that matches their personality," she said. "And I think that that will really build up families and children emotionally, especially right now during the hard times. Everyone needs that extra boost."
The district soft-launched its account the first week of December, and by the next week at least 19 requests had already been granted, just in time for delivery before the holiday break.
Organizers are hoping to do a full launch with consistent posts after the page reaches 500 followers.
As the program grows, the needs of students will be identified by teachers, counselors and other school personnel and referred to the district's Purposity team, made up of Jackson and fellow social workers Lori Carmack and Cory Lowe, Family Connections Coordinator Laura Beth Newsom, and Melanie Calloway of Student Support Services.
"Teachers are excited because we always have students that are in need of something, whether it's socks and underwear or bedding," Jackson said. "We have kids that don't have sheets on their bed and come to school and are tired because they didn't really get a good night's sleep. There are so many needs in our area."
And, so far, the community is responding in kind. Jackson said they have gotten a lot of positive feedback from community members eager to help through the new app.
"There's a lot of people that are so excited because they are finally able to help anonymously, and they can do that as their budget allows just by going in (and seeing what needs there are)," she said. "Whenever they have extra money they can look in to see if there's a need that they can meet."
Most items fall within the $15 to $50 range, but there are cheaper and more expensive needs posted as well.
" Kids are not able to see each other. They're not able to have birthday parties. Parents are out of work. Everyone's down and depressed," Jackson said. "But now they're able to get something that shows their personality and who they are. We hear you — that's what we're trying to tell kids. We hear you."
Purposity can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Users can set their location and search and follow "Walker County Schools" to see needs and get the district closer to its 500-follower goal.
Contact Tierra Hayes at email@example.com.