The Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders has partnered with local non-profit Shine and Inspire in an effort to aid Mercer County children in need.
The partnership with the Hamilton Township non-profit organization is for a county-wide donation drive to benefit the Shine and Inspire Closet initiative.
The initiative helps low income and displaced children have basic items such as soap, detergent, towels and food, according to Shine and Inspire officials.
“A student’s sole focus should be school. They shouldn’t feel embarrassed about personal appearance or fear not being able to afford lunch when school is not in session,” freeholder Pasquale Colavita said. “The freeholders and I are proud to partner with Shine and Inspire and help grow their Shine and Inspire Closet initiative. The closet allows students to have a judgment-free zone where they can obtain the basic necessities we all need.”
Officials said the donation drive began on Jan. 7 and will continue until Feb. 25.
“This is a brand new partnership with the freeholders. The non-profit created last summer the Shine and Inspire Closet initiative,” said Carol Feldman, executive director of Shine and Inspire. “We established this initiative after finding out that some children were not going to school in the county, because they could not afford hygiene items. We started to do collections basically on Facebook and some people were willing to put donations in their offices or associations.”
When the drive is done the collected items will head to three Shine and Inspire closets located in Mercer County.
“We have one in Ewing High School, another at the Trenton Board of Education office and the third is in the John Witherspoon Middle School in Princeton,” Feldman said. “The needs are different depending on the location.”
According to officials, basic hygiene items consisting of hair care products, feminine products, deodorant, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste are highly requested from the list.
“One of the items we hear most about from displaced families is the need for detergent. They do not have a home and certainly do not have a washer or dryer,” Feldman explained. “They have to go somewhere to wash their clothes. As the closets grow, you will see a need differentiate each one.”
Officials are also collecting school supplies, non-perishable food items (canned food, crackers and peanut butter), and limited clothing (gloves, hats and socks).
“We knew something needed to be done when someone told me that some children were not going to school because they cannot afford deodorant, or a nice backpack, or shoes. You cannot learn if people are teasing you,” Feldman said. “There is so much money in Mercer County and and responses have already been wonderful.”
County residents will be able to drop off donations at all Mercer County Library branches, Assemblyman Dan Benson’s office in Hamilton, all Berkshire Bank locations in Mercer County, the County Administration Building in Trenton, Capital Area YMCA in Pennington, Ewing Municipal Building, Ewing Community Center and Hollowbrook Community Center in Ewing.
For more information about the donation drive, visit www.shineandinspire.org.