Personal hygiene items are ubiquitous. Everyone needs toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and soap, but not everyone can afford them. That’s where Lacie Morris, a fifth-grader at Ruckersville Elementary School, comes in.
At the beginning of the school year, Morris—along with support from school administration—opened a care closet at the school to benefit students who need these products.
“It’s just that some people don’t have the money to go out and buy these things,” Morris said. “If I couldn’t afford these items, I’d be worried people would make fun of me.”
While there are programs that help families afford food, those programs do not cover these items, including feminine hygiene products, which can bring a hefty price tag.
Morris, 10, has learned the importance of community service through her participation in pageants. Morris holds the Spirit of Tiny Miss of America Pageant and Petite Miss Greene titles.
“This is her last year at Ruckersville and she wanted to leave something,” said Meghann Gregory, Lacie’s mom. “I contacted Martina Carol, the assistant principal, because I didn’t even know if it was something that could be done and she said ‘let’s do it. If she wants to do this, I’m going to everything that I possibly can’.”
Carol spoke with the principal Donna Payne, who was also very supportive of Morris’s efforts.
“It’s crazy to me as a parent to think this isn’t something that’s been there before,” Gregory said. “And I’ve had people in Charlottesville tell me when they tried to start something like this they couldn’t because no one would take the leadership to help. We were talking last night about how kids shouldn’t have to worry about not having these things. They should be able to go to school and worry about school.”
Morris said there is a shelf in the closet that houses food for the backpack program, which helps feed those students who might need food over the weekend, for the care closet items.
Morris also helps fix dinner at the Ronald McDonald House in Charlottesville, which houses families who have loved ones in the hospital. She also donated school supplies to her school this year, as well. Morris also visits nursing homes in the area.
“It’s just nice to help people,” she said.
Playing third base on her softball team is also something she enjoys, and she said she’s going to begin pitching, too. Her family has 14 foxhounds, as well as two dogs indoors—a toy poodle and a mountain feist named Avery that she sleeps with. She said she hopes to be a veterinarian when she’s older and has begun working with Dr. Hagan’s office in Ruckersville.
Since she was 4 years old, Morris has been struggling with chronic migraines and just last week learned she may have more than just a gluten allergy; the doctor tested her for celiac disease, which damages the small intestine.
Gregory said some days it feels like she’s not going to make it through preteen years with her daughter.
“And then there are days where she comes home and says [she wants to help people] like this and I say, ‘ah, we’re going to be OK’. She is a strong, strong-willed child, but she has the biggest heart out of anybody I’ve ever met,” Gregory said. “Also, if it weren’t for the administrators at Ruckersville, it wouldn’t be happening.”
Morris said at the end of this school year, the school will choose another student to help lead it next year.
“I want people to feel welcome to come and get these items,” Morris said.
Students can go to guidance or a teacher or the front office, but they can also ask her directly if they need anything, she said.
Morris is accepting donations for the care closet at Ruckersville Elementary School, 105 Progress Place off U.S. Route 33 west. Additionally, donations can be brought to the Greene County Record office, 113 Main St., Stanardsville.
Items needed include feminine hygiene products, deodorants for both genders, shampoo and conditioner, bar soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste.