For most children, the days leading up to holiday break are full of excitement and anticipation. But it’s not the case for everyone. Some fear Santa will skip their home, while their friends get a pile of presents. Others worry about how they will eat each day, without the guarantee of school breakfast and lunch. That food insecurity is what inspired Dr. Brian Allred to launch the initiative that’s now known as Clarksville Cares. When he launched the campaign, Dr. Allred was principal at Clarksville High School. He noticed some of the students seemed gloomy in the weeks before break. “I began to notice there was a correlation between those students and their socio-economic status,” explained Allred.
Dr. Allred brainstormed with his staff and got the idea to send food home with students. Once funding was secure, it was time hit the grocery store- searching for food that was nutritious, portable- and items kids would enjoy eating. “Today, it’s morphed into a little bit of a science for us,” explains Allred. Many of the students who receive the food bags aren’t in your traditional home. “We might have kids in a situation where they may be at a hotel so they don’t have a full kitchen,” explains Allred. “We tried to be very thoughtful and mindful over time on what they can do if they didn’t have a hot plate, if they didn’t have a stove- if they only have a microwave.” Common items in the food bags include instant oatmeal, ramen noodles, Pop-tarts, granola bars, Spaghetti-O’s and tuna or chicken salad kits with crackers.
Over time, Clarksville Cares expanded to include holiday gifts for children who may otherwise go without. Each school building nominates students who are in need and would greatly benefit from the gifts. Staff contacts each student’s home, to let the adults know they have been chosen and collect information on the child’s clothing sizes and what else they may like.
Local businesses donate the money that allows CCSC staff volunteers to shop at Walmart for each student. Every gift bag will include a full outfit: shirt, pants, socks and underwear. Most also contain toys or games. Toiletries are also added in: a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and deodorant. Volunteers from each school building then pack up the bags and arrange for the grown-ups to pick them up. This holiday season, 78 students will receive gift bags and 176 are getting food bags. But Clarksville Cares isn’t just for the holidays. Food bags are also sent home with students during other school breaks.
While local businesses help support Clarksville Cares, the CCSC staff also pitches in with payroll deductions, by collecting money to buy grocery store gift cards, and with personal donations. In 2021, Clarksville staff donated more than $10,000. Clarksville Cares accepts donations of food or money year-round since food bags also go home with students over other school breaks. You can donate here: https://www.clarksvilleschools.org/clarksville-cares/
For Dr. Allred, Clarskville Cares a passion project that’s worth all the time and hard work. “Our mission is to make sure kids are able to learn. If they don’t have food, if they don’t have shelter, if they don’t have clothing- those basics- it’s going to be difficult for them to learn.”