St. Louis area non-profit The Little Bit Foundation has aided schoolchildren in need for the past 15 years by providing one-on-one support in schools to identify specific needs from underwear and eyeglasses to meals and mental health.
The organization was founded by Rose Hanley, Little Bit’s executive director, with a simple coat drive for an area school. Now, the non-profit serves 25 schools and 7,000 children in the St. Louis area.
“It is a wrap-around service,” Hanley told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. “Any need a child may have, we take care of that. Our goal is to increase attendance, decrease discipline problems and ultimately increase the high school graduation rate, which then we have a stronger community, strong adults having a positive influence on our society.”
The organization pairs a volunteer liaison with a point person at the school who is responsible for identifying what kids are in need of. Then, the volunteer brings items to the school once a week every week.
Hanley and the organization’s Volunteer Manager Lucy Englander said that they’ve seen many cases where children are wearing shoes that are three sizes too small, they have holes in their pants and shirts and may not have a winter coat at all.
The No. 1 need?
“The most requested items are socks and underwear,” Englander said. “Last year, we gave out 21,000 pair. It is our most requested item, by far.”
The organization also partners with other local organizations, like Operation Food Search and the Institute for Family Medicine, to ensure food pantries and wellness clinics are provided at the schools Little Bit works in. Each school is also provided with a washer and dryer.
A recent focus of Little Bit’s work has been in the area of behavioral health, hoping to place therapists in all partner schools.
“So many students are living in trauma, in crisis,” Hanley said. “Things that are almost incomprehensible to us: Seeing a parent who is incarcerated, living in a car … if we can help these children living in crisis, if we can help them now and get them therapy at a young age, they’ll be more productive now and more productive adults.”
Hanley remains convinced that what sets Little Bit apart is the one-on-one interactions that volunteers have with children when bringing items to schools.
“We can take care of basic needs right now, but that caring relationship can last a lifetime,” Hanley said. “We believe that’s what’s changing, that’s what helps.”
Right now, Little Bit is in special need of socks, underwear, hats, gloves, colored pencils and dental kits. You can learn more about how you can provide such items or volunteer with the organization here.
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.