A Tuscaloosa-area program is giving people the opportunity to directly, anonymously help primary school students meet specific needs in their lives, and donations are always needed.

With around 11,000 students in city schools and another 18,000 in the county school system, it's inevitable that some of those children are going to have unmet needs.

Neighborhood Bridges, though, is personalizing the problem by sharing anonymous details about the needs they are striving to see met, giving some shape to an often faceless issue.

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Right now, a teen mom in the Tuscaloosa City Schools system needs formula for her infant. A middle school student needs adult diapers. A student who is sensitive to sounds is in need of noise-canceling headphones so they can focus. A handful of students need clothes in various sizes as their families struggle financially.

(Neighborhood Bridges)
(Neighborhood Bridges)

Those are just a snapshot of the 40 active, unmet needs currently shared by Neighborhood Bridges from the two school systems.

The program works like this -- counselors in schools across both systems keep their ears to the ground for the unmet needs of children in the school. When they become aware of one, they post about it on the organization's website.

The needs are specific but anonymous, and students are not identified by name or school. Anyone moved to help can buy the necessary items directly and drop them off at a designated location or donate money to cover the cost of meeting one or more specific needs. The counselor who identified the need will make sure the student receives the item they need and donors are kept anonymous.

Terri Boman, the executive director of the Tuscaloosa Education Foundation, told the Thread that in an average week, it would take between $3,000 and $4,000 to fund every Opportunity for Kindness shared by Neighborhood Bridges.

It would take the generosity of a wealthy philanthropist to cover those costs alone every week, but by democratizing the process and allowing people to cover the costs of specific needs, Boman and other area leaders hope the community's collective kindness can clear the queue and meet every listed need.

Even those who cannot help meet a need can move the needle by sharing information about the program with their friends, neighbors, families and church groups so the pool of crowd-funders grows ever deeper.

To see the 35 unmet needs in the City Schools system, click here.

For the 5 unmet needs in Tuscaloosa County schools, click here.  

EDITOR'S NOTE: To help Neighborhood Bridges spread the word about their mission, the Tuscaloosa Thread will begin periodically highlighting some of the unmet needs they seek to fill. Look out for more as needs are identified and shared through the program. 

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