Pub 5 2021 Issue1

A friend of mine is a teacher at an elementary school in Murray, Utah. Prior to the pandemic, we would routinely get together to walk around a nearby park and chat. One time she relayed this story to me: She had a student in her class that missed basically every other day of school for the first month of school. When she talked to her principal about it, she found out that this student ’s sibling was also missing nearly every other day. My friend decided to pay a visit to the students’ house to see what was going on. During her visit she discovered the two brothers only had one pair of shoes between the two of them. The boys traded off going to school every other day so that one of them didn’t have to go to school barefoot. Needless to say, hearing this story was heartbreaking — no child should be faced with this scenario. My friend solved this problem by getting both boys a new pair of shoes out of her own pocket to the very loud protestations of the deeply grateful and embarrassed parents. For the next several days and weeks, I often wondered what had happened to those students, and more importantly, what would become of them when they each outgrew their only pair of shoes. I also wondered how difficult things were for the whole family that splitting a pair of shoes to attend school every other day was the best solution. This was lingering in the back of my mind when my husband Chad Spain (UAFP President-Elect) told me that he was applying for an AAFP Family Medicine Philanthropic (FMPC) grant again this year. He explained the parameters, and I wondered aloud if we would be able to do something to solve this shoe/absenteeism dilemma for some of the children in our community. I started poking around the internet and learned about some of the programs working to address this widespread issue in the United States. What I learned was how many children are affected not by just lack of shoes but clean clothing. Care Counts is a program that has partnered with Whirlpool and Proctor & Gamble to provide schools across the U.S. with washers and dryers that families can use free of charge. This alone has assisted participating school districts in dramatically dropping their rates of student absenteeism. With the knowledge that clean clothes and shoes can help students attend school regularly — which is so critical for the well-being of children — it was time to do a little more research and some math. I found that with the grant money plus a little extra, we could fairly reasonably get two pairs of pants, socks, underwear, and a $25 gift card so the family could purchase a pair of shoes for approximately 30–35 school children. With some cold calls and a little determination, we found a school that could use our help. With the help of my teacher friend, we were connected with a school AAFP FMPC Grant — Clean Clothes for Low Income Students By Sarah Spain | 24