What started as one mom’s mission to make the school day a little easier for students at her child’s school has mushroomed into a community-wide effort to try to meet students’ basic needs in nearly every Sumner County school.
It started in August when Carrie Chambers, whose son attends Jack Anderson Elementary School, asked Principal Tressa Sanders how she could help.
“Over the summer I had a burden on my heart for parents to come alongside schools and help in some way,” said Chambers.
Chambers had the idea of creating a space at the school where necessities like toothbrushes, hair brushes and other personal hygiene items could be accessed quickly by guidance counselors or teachers who saw a child in need.
The mom had heard stories from her teacher friends who would notice a need and return to school the next day with an item they paid for themselves.
“I know a lot of these things, teachers in the past have bought with their own money,” said Chambers. “So hopefully this will alleviate some of that and help teachers too.”
Chambers’ Care Cabinets provide items like gently worn clothes, hygiene supplies, new socks and underwear, grocery gift cards and more to students in need in a discreet and confidential way.
“Every student can benefit from it, not just those in need,” she said. “There are accidents, and this alleviates the burden on school staff and parents from having to leave work to bring their child extra undergarments. This immediate resolution is a win-win for everyone.”
There are also what Chambers calls “happy items” like note pads, stickers and coloring books for students who may be having a bad day.
Sanders says Jack Anderson’s Care Cabinet has been a popular new addition to the school.
“The Care Cabinet provides extra ‘care’ for students on a daily basis,” said Sanders. “If a student forgets a snack, spills milk on clothing during lunch, or needs a pair of shoes, this resource has fulfilled a purpose greater than Carrie Chambers ever dreamed.”
Chambers created the Facebook group The Care Cabinet and has collected thousands of items since September to stock ‘cabinets’ at Benny Bills and Vena Stuart Elementary schools in Gallatin, and Jack Anderson and Indian Lake Elementary schools in Hendersonville.
“Carrie is doing some amazing work coordinating the needs of each school and organizing donations for the Care Cabinets,” said Indian Lake’s PTO President, Lacey Devlin. “We are so lucky to have a resource like this for our students!”
Vena Stuart’s Care Cabinet provides underwear, socks, shoes and clothes for incidents or needs that arise, according to school counselor Tyler Hensley. Hensley estimates that more than a dozen students a day benefit from the resource.
“This program is a huge help to our staff and students,” said Hensley. “It allows us to respond to needs faster and provides dignity and comfort to our students who may need assistance. We are also grateful for the opportunity to provide little gifts to our students such as notebooks, pencils, and little toys.”
As word has spread about Chambers’ efforts, so too have the amount of donations.
“There are a lot of people in this community who have helped,” she said. “The amount of support — it really has been overwhelming.”
Chambers’ goal is for all Sumner County Schools to have a Care Cabinet.
She’s currently working on Station Camp High School and Bethpage Elementary School where she has visited the schools and measured the available space.
She has also arranged a drop-off spot at Hendersonville Jewelers, 811 West Main Street. Items that may be dropped off include gently used clothing (short sleeve and long sleeve t-shirts, sweat shirts, pants, shorts, coats, hats, gloves and tennis shoes); hygiene products (hair brushes, combs, tooth brushes, hair accessories, feminine products like tampons and pads); new socks and underwear; snacks and “fun” items (coloring books, stickers, colored pens and small notebooks).
Chambers says she’s been encouraged by the response her initiative has received so far.
“If you just start a ripple, God usually makes waves,” she said. “And this community is really stepping up.”
For more information or to donate, email Chambers at firstname.lastname@example.org or find The Care Cabinet on Facebook.