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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK Kathy Launder (right), Springdale School District nursing supervisor, and Beverly Charleton, social services, unpack and store clothing items Thursday in the new clothing closet and food pantry at the Central Support Services Nursing Department in Springdale. The department is moving into the new facility on south Thompson Street.

SPRINGDALE -- Students throughout the School District will have a better chance for academic success now that they can get eye doctor appointments, glasses and repairs free of charge.

"We're trying to get everyone glasses by Christmas," said Kathy Launder, school nurse coordinator for the Springdale School District.

Money donated through the NWA Community Christmas Card campaign is making that possible.

The campaign helps meet the basic needs of children in the region. Donors may direct their money to any one of the school districts in Benton and Washington counties and in McDonald County, Mo. The campaign is sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Every penny donated goes to the school districts.

"We're happy to accept donations of any size. You can make a difference with any amount," said Rusty Turner, the newspaper's editor. Those who give at least $2 by noon Dec. 22 will get their names in the newspaper on Christmas Day.

"This is just another easy way for people to donate. Untold numbers have been helped by those donations, it supports lots of different things," Turner said.

Springdale's School District last year received $5,856 through the campaign.

Launder, who works with the district's 35 nurses, said vision screenings are done in the fall. Afterward, schools send letters to the families whose children need glasses.

"When no one gets glasses, we check back with the family to see if they're having financial problems and offer to help," she said. "They're expensive, and it's not just the cost of the glasses."

Doctor visit fees, fittings, adjustments and repairs -- especially for children in sports -- all add up, she said.

"It's critical to have good eyesight," Turner said. "Kids often don't realize that they need glasses, so it's a real hindrance if they need them and don't have them."

Launder said the need is especially great for Springdale's School District where 70 percent of student families are at poverty levels, based on the rate of free and reduced-price lunches.

Identifying which families need help is a group task, Launder said. School nurses work with counselors to get the information.

Suzi Park, a nurse at the Early Childhood Center, said she relies on teachers to know which families could use a little help, but sometimes families simply ask the school. The district also has a family service manager who tag teams the effort.

"If they're not going to the doctor or eye doctor, then we know something is up," Park said. "Every year we know we always need food and medical assistance. We can anticipate that need and form good relationships with offices" that help.

Launder said it only takes one cold snap to pick out which students need coats and gloves, since many kids in the district walk to school. Christmas Card donations go toward getting those students bundled up, buying food for the School District's pantry and buying supplies for the schools in particularly low income areas, where parents may not be able to send the needed items.

Having children's basic needs met helps them immensely at school, she said.

"It's good for children's learning capacity," Launder said. "We don't want them to come to school with a bellyache. We don't want them to fail."

Most of all, Launder said Springdale schools are grateful to use the donations for any number of circumstantial needs, such as families who experienced house fires or job loss.

This year, a principal honed in on a family who had lost a loved one and spent all their money on the funeral. It left them without grocery money, Launder said. Christmas Card donations paid for fresh food for that family.

The donations give school staff the ability to follow up with those families later and help again if things haven't returned to normal yet, she said.

"When we have that money, it's nice to be able to do those things without making families wait," Launder said. "We can help immediately a family in crisis."

NW News on 12/17/2017

Print Headline: Christmas Card donations helps students in need with glasses

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