When a child comes to school without a jacket, unable to afford school supplies or grappling with a financial need at home, it can break a teacher's heart and wallet.
For the past several years in Fulton, the solution to many problems has been Bright Futures, an organization that works with the community to meet the needs of students in Fulton Public Schools. This month, Bright Futures announced North Callaway R-1 School District is joining the effort.
"A big goal for us with Bright Futures is to have all of Callaway County involved so that all of our county kids can have those needs met," Fulton Public Schools Communications Director Karen Snethen said. "We are all continuing to work very hard to try to spread the love of Bright Futures."
The Bright Futures program was inspired by a similar effort in Joplin that aimed to raise graduation rates by meeting the basic needs of students. Fulton Early Childhood Education Director Jen Meyerhoff heard about the program at a conference and worked to bring the idea to Fulton.
Meyerhoff and Snethen — who spoke to the Fulton Rotary Club on Wednesday — saw that teachers were often using their own resources to help students with matters outside the classroom.
"If a child needs shoes, the teacher doesn't think twice — they go out and buy shoes," Meyerhoff said. "That's something we wanted to take off their plate."
Now, when a teacher hears about a need, they can pass it on to Bright Futures, which works with organizations and individuals to meet the need within 24 hours.
"It's amazing to me the number of children we have who don't have clothing that is suitable for the year or decent enough to wear to school," Snethen said. "We have gotten kids glasses who need glasses. We have gotten football cleats so kids can play football and be active in school."
The program serves all ages.
"We're getting diapers, and we're paying for the ACT," Meyerhoff said.
One anonymous donor provided funds to help eradicate bed bugs in a family's home.
"I reached out to her with a really big ask of $1,200 to help this family, and without any thought at all, there was a check written and that need was taken care of," Snethen said.
Bright Futures has helped establish a clothes closet at each FPS building.
"It's a nice, easy way for when you have a student whose clothes haven't been washed in days or who just doesn't have enough at home or who needs a jacket that day," Meyerhoff said. "Now we have this resource where we can just pull from it."
Currently Bright Futures is putting together kits of supplies to send home with students if they have lice.
"A lot of times, families may not know how to get rid of lice," Meyerhoff said. "It will have instructions in it and everything they need so that their kids can be in school."
As soon as the program learns of a need, a call for help is posted on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BrightFuturesFulton.
"The goal of Bright Futures is to pull the community together to meet the needs of the children within the community," Meyerhof said. "Basically, there are so many people out there who want to give and have the means to give, but they don't always know where to go. Bright Futures makes it easy."