Texoma Gives: The Uniform Challenge

This week, I’m wearing the same clothes to work every single day.

I’m doing this as a part of the Junior League of Wichita Falls’ Uniform Challenge to experience a little bit of what it’s like for the hundreds of kids in Wichita County alone who live below the poverty line and may only have one school-appropriate set of clothes to wear.

This may seem small, but think about what it means for a kid in elementary school. Think about how socially awkward YOU felt as a kid at times, when you weren’t worried about what other people thought of seeing you wear the same thing every day, or how clean you were, or if you smelled.

Think about the time spent worrying about playing on the playground because you might get sweaty or get your clothes dirtier… the time spent worried about trying to wash them at home every single night. Time that could have been spent just being a KID and learning and growing.

This whole project came about because of our League’s PIE partnerships with Zundy and Burgess Elementary. For years, the schools have been giving us wish lists and we’ve been hosting “impact drives” within the League membership. And the wish list items break your heart a little – deodorant. New underwear. Febreeze fabric freshener. Toothbrushes and toothpaste. Lice shampoo. Shoes.

These are the things kids in our community desperately need. Yes, crayons and school supplies are a part of the puzzle. But when you can’t get your basic needs met, it’s really hard to focus on things like coloring with crayons, and just plain learning.

(As a side note, hunger is also a big issue, so we also do “Power Paks” at the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank once a month to provide packs of food for kids to bring home over the weekend when they aren’t being supplied with free school lunches.)

SO. We decided to focus 100% of our efforts and 100% of our Texoma Gives donations towards buying essential clothing for kids at those two schools.

Yesterday was my first day to participate, and in morning as I got dressed I thought and worried about a million little things:

Is this enough deodorant? What if I start stinking? Is it going to be hot this week? I need to wear an undershirt so I can change that out every day.

What if I spill? What if Teddy spills on me? Am I going to *gulp* have to do laundry more than ONCE in a week? I don’t have time for that!

Do I have any big meetings this week? Do I need to look a certain way? Will I look professional enough by the time I get to Thursday?

This shirt is a little tight. What if that one button in the middle pops open like it likes to do?

Things I normally think/worry about when I get dressed:

*crickets*

(…goes into closet like zombie, picks first thing off shelf…)

Yeah, sure there’s the quick check of weather, the occasional drama of something not fitting or going through the washer with stains still intact, but really, it’s a whole carefree thing compared to what it would be like if I didn’t have the resources to fund the overcrowded closet I currently own.

Worst of all, I must confess that last week before I even started, I actually thought about buying a new blue shirt to wear just for this challenge. Our League leadership chose blue shirts and black pants because it was the work equivalent of a uniform that members were most likely to already have in their closets. But I only have one blue work-appropriate shirt to wear and it’s a little tight on me, and it’s long-sleeved, which is not great for the weather we’ve been having.

But isn’t that exactly the point?

Not everyone has the luxury of a “special” week, or being given some sort of socially acceptable excuse for wearing the same thing every day. Not everyone has plenty of clothes on hand that fit and are appropriate for the weather – especially growing kids!

Sure, it’s not the world’s biggest problem, but it’s somewhere we can start to make a tangible difference in our community.

Kids can come to school clean, confident, and not distracted by the stress of everything I mentioned above, and the stress of what their peers might think of them.

There’s nothing that speaks more powerfully to my heart than giving kids the chance to be kids, and not worry about things we have the power to help change.

So what’s the big takeaway?

Donate to Junior League of Wichita Falls, Inc. during Texoma Gives on September 13. We are giving EVERY PENNY to buy school clothing for students at our PIE Partner schools (Zundy and Burgess Elementaries). The standard donation for Texoma Gives is $25, which can buy a lot – a full (and brand new) set of clothes in fact. That $25 includes a new shirt, pants, undergarments, and shoes for one kid. How incredible is that?

It just so happens that September 12 is my birthday, so I feel like I have the right to make requests. And this is mine – celebrate my 33rd a day late, and consider donating $25 (or more!) to JLWF via TexomaGives.org and help clothe the kids that need it most.

By the time Texoma Gives begins, my Uniform Challenge will have ended, but the challenge for kids in our community doesn’t stop until we do something. Who’s ready to get started with me?

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