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Op-Ed: Join Campbell Co. Library in Underwear Donations

The following op-ed is written by Campbell County Public Library director J.C. Morgan.

The Campbell County Public Library launched its fourth year of the “Drop Your Drawers” campaign in November. I am asked sometimes how we came up with the idea for the program, but it was really more the merging of two ideas than the creation of one.

A few years ago, I attended a training on building early literacy skills. The presenter was a friend of mine, Debbie Onkst, who worked with the Northern Kentucky Education Council.  She was talking about barriers to learning and mentioned underwear, clean underwear that fits, as being a barrier for some kids. It was eye opening to me that underwear could ever be a barrier for anyone in the learning environment.

Later I was approached by Kriste Swanson from Campbell County Schools. Kriste runs one of the Family Resource Centers in the county. Her job is to help kids and families overcome hurdles, stay in school, and succeed. She asked if the Library would be willing to help collect coats for the kids in her program.

In thinking about Kriste’s request, those two ideas came together to become “Drop Your Drawers.” One of my staff members came up with the name. When I pitched the name and concept to a few groups, the reaction was always positive, often amused, and invariably surprised that underwear could be a barrier for any child.

But it is. Sometimes the lack of underwear is part of a bigger and ongoing problem like homelessness. Sometimes it’s a matter of family resources being used to meet other immediate needs like putting food on the table.  Sometimes a child has frequent underwear issues for medical reasons. And, yes, sometimes nature calls unexpectedly.

In the three years we’ve been doing “Drop Your Drawers,” folks have donated 20,000 pairs of underwear. That is tremendous. Across Kentucky, about 50 other libraries participate now. Even the author of the Captain Underpants books, Dav Pilkey, has taken notice and sent a huge box of chocolates to our library to thank us for using the Captain’s image as part of the project. (We’re actually using some of his autographed books as raffle prizes this year!)

When you give to a cause, you like to be sure that your donation is being used correctly. When you give underwear that will fit an elementary school student, you can be absolutely sure that it’s not being used anywhere else.

Hopefully this year, you’ll bring in a pack of underwear to the Library. We accept sizes 4-16 for boys or girls. Underwear must be new and in its original packaging. Other than that, there are no rules.  Buy some Batman underwear, buy some Sponge Bob underwear, or go for the basics. It’s up to you. Just know that the student who receives that pair of underwear in a time of need will be grateful.  The Library will collect underwear through December 31, and we are grateful to you as well for your generosity. For more information, see www.cc-pl.org/drop-your-drawers.

JC Morgan has been the director of the Campbell County Public Library since 2003.