United Way of the Midlands Shine Bright Program

United Way of the Midlands Shine Bright Program

October 13, 2023

Introducing the Shine Bright program by United Way of the Midlands - a beacon of hope for greater Omaha Kindergarten, Middle, and High School students who need essential hygiene items. The program started in 2021 as a response to the pandemic, which left many families struggling to make ends meet. The cost of starting a new school year was overwhelming for some, especially when it came to buying hygiene items. The Shine Bright program was created to provide hope, confidence and reassurance to those who needed it most.

Each Shine Bright kit contains all the items kids need to feel good about themselves, so they can succeed in the classroom and life! There are six different types of kits based on age and needs, focusing on the school transition years. United Way works with schools to determine which products are essential. The biggest request? Tide pods. Something that frequently gets moved down the shopping list when budgets are tight. “The transition years in a child’s development can be very anxiety-filled as students enter school for the first time as Kindergarteners, go on to Junior High, and then to High School. By providing essential hygiene items, we help students enter the school year with confidence, looking and feeling their best,” says Director of Strategic Relationships, Maureen Irish.

Although the program was anticipated to succeed, the level of gratitude it has generated was unexpected. United Way of the Midlands received a poignant story about a teacher who stored all the donated items in a cabinet that the children could access whenever they needed. One day, a child opened the cabinet and was overjoyed to discover that they could take whatever they wanted. The expression of happiness and relief on their face was truly heartwarming. The response from program recipients has been overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing their gratitude through thank you cards and notes from both social workers and students. "The impact of this project is profound. The products in the kits also benefit the whole family, like the Tide Pods,” says Carly Weld, Manager of Volunteerism and Corporate Relations "It touches our hearts to see how this initiative is making a real difference in the lives of families throughout the state."

Assembly line of people creating kits for United Way

The program has received a positive response from the community, with many local companies offering their support. More than 600 volunteers have joined the cause, and Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) students have also lent a hand. Werner Enterprises has provided storage space and helped with delivery, while the Mid-America Center has generously offered a discounted venue space. “We would not be able to do this vital work without the generosity and support of Weiner’s Ltd and other corporate partners coming together,” says Irish. The community has truly come together to make this project a success, as assembling almost 5,000 kits is no easy task!

You can dramatically change a child’s life when you support Shine Bright.  Here is how you can help!

  • Buy a kit! Each kit costs approximately $50, and you are helping provide essential items to students in need.
  • Volunteer!  The event requires more than 600 volunteers to help with organization, assembly and distribution. If you or your company is in the Omaha area and interested in helping, click here.

The impact of this program is far-reaching, as it not only helps individual children but also their families and communities. It is a great example of how a community can come together to support its youth at a time when they need it most. The program not only provides essential items, but also helps build confidence and self-esteem in children who may be struggling. By providing these kits, we are helping these children feel like they belong and can succeed in school and beyond.

Together, we can help thousands of children shine bright and achieve their full potential!

If your company is interested in starting a similar initiative, we're here to help! Contact us for details.

Group photo from United Way/Weiners