TUCSON, Ariz. - Community members are on a mission to give every student at Tucson Unified School District access to basic hygiene products.
Toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo are just a few of the basic hygiene products many of us take for granted. They're necessities many Palo Verde High School students are going without.
"These kids are not asking for bicycles, and game boys and play stations and all this stuff. They're asking for basic needs," Donna Walker said. "And that just pulled at my heart, and I was like, if they need a toothbrush and toothpaste, we're going to make it happen."
Donna Walker is the community liaison at Palo Verde. In her first week, she recalls three students telling her they couldn't come to school, because they didn't have a toothbrush and toothpaste, or deodorant. Another student needed a new backpack, and another, a pair of shoes.
"After that, I was like, 'Wow, I need some supplies,'" Walker said.
Walker funds the majority of the supplies in her office. The Greater Tucson Leadership is teaming up with the Educational Enrichment Foundation, or EEF, to create a hygiene pantry -- which would take the financial burden off of school staff, like Walker.
The pantry will provide free toiletries to all Tucson Unified students and families, which organizers say will reduce preventable absences.
EEF says around 80 percent of TUSD students qualify for free or reduced lunch. That's the number of students they expect to help with the pantry.
"I've had stories from every school I've been at, about students whose families are sharing a toothbrush, or students too embarrassed to go to school because they don't have deodorant, or haven't been able to brush their teeth. Simply because they're missing those products," Leslie Edwards, the executive director with EEF said.
The hygiene pantry will be up and running at St. Mark's Presbyterian Church by May or June. Until then, donations are needed.
Robyn Lambert with the Greater Tucson Leadership says they're looking for community members to donate things they would personally use to make themselves feel clean, fresh and healthy everyday.
Deodorant is what's needed the most, followed by dental hygiene products, Lambert says.
Donate here to EEF's Hygiene Pantry. You can drop off donations at Greater Tucson Leadership at the Tucson Metro Chamber.