May 5, 2022

Indiana schools use app to connect students in need with community donations

Stephanie Quinlan, Perry Township Schools’ Assistant Director of Students, demonstrates Purposity. The app allows community members to purchase basic items needed by students anonymously. - (Elizabeth Gabriel/WFYI)

Stephanie Quinlan, Perry Township Schools’ Assistant Director of Students, demonstrates Purposity. The app allows community members to purchase basic items needed by students anonymously.

(Elizabeth Gabriel/WFYI)

Low income students may struggle to afford basic needs, like new clothes and shoes. Without them, students might find it harder to fit in and feel comfortable at school. Perry Township Schools in Marion County is attempting to ease the burden by partnering with a mobile app that allows community members to find out what students need, and purchase it -- all anonymously. 

“It’s very helpful for our students to remove some of the barriers for them to go to school because they're embarrassed by their clothing or their shoes or not having the tools they need to regulate their diabetes,” said Stephanie Quinlan, Perry Schools Assistant Director of Students.

The app, Purposity, is used to connect students with items such as clothing, shoes and undergarments. Donations have also supported the purchase of detergent and hangers so a student can do her family’s laundry at school. 

The district has used the free app for roughly two months. In April, about 25 Perry Township students had been helped, but nearly 25 needs were still listed on the app.

Why students need specific donations  

According to state data, 71 percent of Perry Township students received free or reduced meals last school year, the national standard for calculating child poverty. The statewide rate is 46 percent of students.

Although Quinlan said she appreciates the food and used clothing donations they receive, that isn’t always what students need.

“It's great to be able to help those who have a specific need, rather than just donating a case of green beans,” Quinlan said. “Which is helpful when we get to that time and our pantries use that. But it's easier just to donate food sometimes. This is more challenging and it's more challenging to get it.”

A child’s needs are posted on the app because a student approaches a teacher, or a social worker or educator has noticed that a student may be in need of certain items. Quinlan said a few teachers noticed students’ shoes flopping off, or students didn’t have closed-toed gym shoes, so they couldn’t participate in physical education. But that was quickly remedied through community support through the Purposity app. 

Purposity donations have also supported a family who lost most of their clothes and belongings in a house fire, as well as diabetic medical equipment for a elementary student who is now able to have more agency when taking their own ketone and blood sugar levels. 

How the Purposity app works

The district posts a story on the app about an anonymous student or family and explains the specific items they need. Then a community member can choose to anonymously fulfill that need based on the request’s location, item or cost. All of the needs listed by Perry Township are between $15 - $100. 

“I compare it a little bit to a wedding registry that you can kind of get a list of the needs we have here in Perry Township and decide which one you want to fulfill,” Quinlan said.  

Once someone pays for an item on the app it’s shipped from Amazon to the school district. This process allows students to receive the exact color and size a child needs, while also limiting how much storage space the district has to reserve for donations. 

Other Indiana schools districts that use Purposity include Lawrence Township, Washington Township, Irvington Community Schools, Danville Community Schools, Hamilton Southeastern, Westfield Washington Schools, Lebanon Special School District.

Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.

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