ROCKVALE, Tenn. (WKRN) — At Rockvale High School, it’s hard for counseling secretary Jessica Dooley to see her students struggle.
“We all just genuinely care about these kids,” she said. “We’ve had some kids that don’t have shoes, and so we’re able to give them shoes. We’ve had kids that don’t have coats, (and) we’re able to give them coats for the winter.”
Now, they’ll be able to give students hygiene products thanks to Claressa Ham.
“It’s exciting to see all of our hard work come together,” she said.
Ham runs a nonprofit in Murfreesboro called Archie’s Promise that provides affordable formal and business wear, as well as hygiene products, to those in need.
“With doing the formal wear, we already saw that there was a need for the hygiene products,” she said.
So a couple of years ago, she began working with Rutherford County School’s Coordinated School Health Program to start providing hygiene products for students.
Soon, she began working on a new plan – hygiene vending machines.
“Our goal is to try and get every middle school and every high school in Rutherford County a machine,” she said.
Ham was able to install the county’s first machine at La Vergne High school, and now their second machine is up and running at Rockvale High School.
“We’ve had a lot of kids come in and ask for items that they need once word spread,” said Dooley.
Students can come to Dooley or other guidance counselors for a Hope Card they can use to swipe the machine for free hygiene items and snacks.
“It’s been very exciting just to hear when we go to the schools to refill the machines that we’re loving this (and) this is awesome,” said Ham. “The kids are needing these items.”
This machine is located in a discreet area of the school’s administrative offices for students’ privacy.
“It helps the kids feel like they can come and ask just because they’re not in full view of everyone else,” said Dooley.
Student needs will be something Dooley will continue to see at Rockvale, but she hopes this machine will help others understand some of the struggles many around us face.
“We live in a really nice community here and you just don’t think that there’s that many kids in need,” she said “I think if more people knew, I think more people would be willing to help.”
Ham said they are working on placing their third machine inside Christiana Middle School in October.
They currently have a wait list of 10 Rutherford County Schools and one elementary school within Murfreesboro City Schools.
Ham said they are able to make this all happen thanks to donations, with one machine costing around $3,700.
If you’d like to make a donation to help place more vending machines in schools, you can do so here.