For many school children in the Fort Bend Independent School District (FBISD), the road is long indeed with many a winding turn. Without adequate clothing, these children tend to have high rates of absenteeism and low self-esteem, which leads to poor academic skills. However, thanks to volunteers from local schools, businesses and churches, these children have access to the supplies and clothing they need.
Shared Dreams was started by caring adults who noticed that not all of the FBISD children came to school with adequate clothing and those that did not attend regularly were withdrawn when they did attend. Through this program, children are provided with various toiletry items. An open house volunteer was deeply moved as he helped a mother carry her Shared Dreams items to her car. When her daughter saw the shampoo, she shouted with joy, “Oh mama, we have shampoo! Now I can wash my hair!”
Started in parents’ garages 13 years ago, the Shared Dreams project now provides clothing and toiletries for more than 400 children every year. The program has clothed more than 3,200 children. To accomplish this, volunteers at every school hold a gently used clothing drive annually. Each week, volunteers meet at the warehouse to sort, mend, size, wash and fold the clothes. School nurses confidentially submit requests for clothing, providing the child’s measurements and personality traits. This enables volunteers to pull together five unique outfits and outerwear plus brand new undergarments, socks, and toiletries. Families can also shop for their allotted clothing at open houses.
The Shared Dreams program continues to be run solely by volunteers. Local businesses and church groups help with clothing drives and monetary contributions. The money is used to purchase new clothing and toiletries as necessary. Evidence of the program’s success can be found in this individual account: in one school year, a Burton Elementary 2nd-grader missed 24 days. She was described as a bright child who was going nowhere. The school nurse bathed her at school. It took several towels to clean off the dirt. Shared Dreams clothed her and the next year she missed only four days of school, due to illness. Today, the child is clean and takes pride in her appearance, and she is now passing all of her subjects.