Dressed to discover: Collier Community Foundation fundraising for school uniforms
Inflation is driving up the cost of rent, groceries, insurance and other daily essentials making it hard for families to keep up with everything their kids need for school.
That's why the Naples Daily News has teamed up with The Collier Community Foundation to help families with at least one expense: school uniforms.
Through its Dressed to Discover campaign, the foundation is collecting donations from the community to help pay for uniforms for roughly 3,300 low-income students in the Collier County School District for the 2023-24 school year.
"Together, we can ensure our students are dressed to … discover, determine, detect, dig-in, design, and dream!" according to the campaign which runs through May 15.
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Eileen Connolly-Keesler, foundation president and CEO, said the fundraiser is similar to backpack fundraisers by many area organizations.
"I think the issue is we have a lot of low-income children in our school district," Connolly-Keesler said. "Purchasing uniforms can be expensive for people who are low income. We're wanting to help those families by helping purchase those uniforms."
As of March, 60% of Collier County School District students were enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program.
The goal is to raise $100,000, and provide every child that is enrolled in the program with a uniform, although Connolly-Kessler said ideally they would like to raise $200,000 so it would cover two school years.
A donation of $30 will supply one student with two uniforms for one year. A donation of $600 would provide a classroom of 20 students with uniforms for a year.
Uniform policy for Collier County Schools
In Collier, 23 of the district's 32 elementary schools have a uniform policy.
"For clarification, the District has a dress code policy, not a uniform policy," district spokeswoman Jennifer Kupiec said in an email. "Individual schools, however, may choose to implement a uniform dress code."
The policies state students must wear plain colored tops, bottoms and sweaters. All shoes must be closed toed and all clothing must fit correctly, nothing should be tight or baggy.
"Each school that implements uniforms via their School Advisory Committee has its own reasons for doing so," Kupiec said.
Some of those, according to Kupiec, are to keep students focused on their education, by reducing peer pressure and bullying, and to help identify anyone who does not belong on campus. But not all parents can afford it.
Last year, 29 elementary schools received uniforms for students in need, including 5,952 shirts, 7,080 shorts,and 1,512 sweatshirts, according to Kupiec. Two of the schools that received the most help were in Immokalee, Village Oaks and Pinecrest elementary. Money leftover from the now-defunct Angels Undercover nonprofit was used but that funding source has since dried up.
That's why the foundation stepped in and will work closely with the school district to identify, order and distribute the uniforms to the students who need them.
"I think it's a great way to go in our district to have uniforms so kids don't feel they don't have the most expensive clothes or the newest styles or whatever. Not everybody can afford that," Connolly-Keesler said. "So this kind of helps alleviate that and puts all kids on kind of the same level."
To donate, visit cfcollier.fcsuite.com/erp/donate/create/fund?funit_id=5026.