October 24, 2018
By Jill Penley
Children are regularly reporting to schools in Johnson County lacking clean underwear and socks, but if Ellen Watkins can figure out the specifics, that may become a thing of the past. Of course, students face many daily challenges both in and out of the classroom. Although most people seldom think about it, new socks and underwear are critical when it comes to building a child’s pride and confidence – qualities that are essential to achieving success in school and life.
“New socks and underwear are luxuries that many children don’t enjoy,” said Watkins. “Students need socks and underwear to get them off to a good start in the morning.”
In her capacity as Johnson County’s Red Cross coordinator, Watkins knows first-hand the struggles of families facing adversity and can certainly attest these are some of the most requested items, but the least donated.
“Socks and underwear are often overlooked,” said Watkins, “but they can make a significant impact in a child’s life.”
In the winter especially it is difficult not to have the bare necessities.
“My students need socks and underwear,” said a local elementary school teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, “because often they show up to school in soiled underwear and go through the fall and winter without any socks.”
Although many of these students face adversity in their own homes, the majority of them make it to school each day.
“When my students arrive, often they are happy,” she said, adding that there are times when they arrive in a bad mood because they do not have access to the “materials that all students need.”
According to the Census Bureau, almost a quarter of Johnson County lives under the poverty line. For low-income families, buying new socks and underwear for their school-aged children might not be in the budget, and although all the specifics of storage and distribution are still being considered, donations of new socks and underwear will go to the students who arrive at school without these everyday staples.
“When trying to come up with a catchy title to introduce this project,” said Watkins, “all I kept thinking as ‘Foo Boo,’ which encompasses the foot and the boo.”
According to Watkins, the project’s name is not carved in stone, but the need to help in this way is her desire.
Although some of the specifics of storage, distribution, and logistics are still being finalized, Watkins already has a rather large collection of socks and undies in various sizes in her home, and she encourages anyone wishing to contribute new children’s socks and underwear to contact her for now at 423-426-3093. As the project grows, there will also be a need for additional storage, and she is hoping some local churches and non-profits might help and of course, there is always room for volunteers to collect, sort and distribute. All you need is a heart for children and a desire to help.