- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) - It’s tough for kids to concentrate in school after a bad night’s sleep.

Thus, a community partnership aims to provide sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, towels and toiletries to Wayne County students who are homeless or bouncing from home to home without a bed.

The Bed in a Bag program is an independent organization led by Jackie Vanderpool, the environmental, occupational health and safety manager at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and Westview Elementary School Principal Tammy Rhoades.

Rhoades discovered the need for the bags when she was the principal at Vaile Elementary. A teacher noted some children were very sleepy when they came to school because they didn’t have a bed, and it was hard for them to learn.

“That’s what spurred the whole thing,” Vanderpool said.

Bed in a Bag operates under Communities in Schools, a local nonprofit that connects families with community resources to overcome obstacles that could lead them to drop out of school. CIS identifies the students who need a Bed in a Bag and distributes them to any school the organization serves in Wayne County. Families can contact their school’s site coordinator to request a bag.

The first bags were made in 2013, and the first fundraising effort began in 2014. Money raised goes to Communities in Schools, and Vanderpool and Rhoades buy the supplies with those donations. Vanderpool said they try to be fiscally responsible and shop for sales. It costs about $50 to fill a bag.

A Bed in a Bag includes a large duffel bag, a sleeping bag and blanket, a pillow and pillowcase, towel, washcloth, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste and deodorant. Children who are transient tend to value large duffel bags because they can keep their personal belongings in them as they move from place to place, Vanderpool said.

So far, the group has made 150 bags to distribute.

However, funds will run out by Christmas, so organizers are making an appeal to the community to support the project.

Several organizations work together to get a Bed in a Bag to kids.

Fairview Elementary School provides storage space for supplies before and after the bags are assembled.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition supplies toiletries and McDonald’s provides bags to hold the toiletries.

Teenage members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wayne County’s Keystone Club, which meets at the clubs’ Fairview Unit, assemble the bags. The students are overseen by Fairview Unit leader Jon York, and Vanderpool said York is a “wonderful guy and great to work with.”

Vanderpool is pleased by the large number of community partners.

“There are so many agencies and companies coming together to make this happen,” she said. “That kind of collaboration is what is needed to make our community what it once was and what it needs to be.”

Vanderpool and Rhoades won one of CIS’ Champion of Education awards last year for their volunteer efforts. Reservations are due Monday for this year’s CIS fundraising dinner, which takes place Nov. 10 at Forest Hills Country Club.

In addition, Vanderpool and a colleague at Hill’s were nominated for Richmond Community Schools’ Friend of Education honor earlier this year for their company’s support of educational programs.

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Source: (Richmond) Palladium-Item, https://pinews.co/2eg7gpI

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Information from: Palladium-Item, https://www.pal-item.com


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