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United Way teams up with HanesBrands to donate masks to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

WINSTON-SALEM — As America continues to grapple with COVID-19 and its health, economic and education fallout, United Way’s focus on the disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable has not wavered. One place people can make a difference is protecting students, teachers and school staff as schools pursue in person instruction.

This is particularly important in the 56,000 public schools serving America’s 37 million lowest-income students. As school districts grapple with the demands of serving all students, under-resourced schools are especially vulnerable. A typical school district with about 3,700 students needed about $1.8 million to reopen last fall, for cleaning, extra staff, and masks for staff and students who don’t bring them from home. But under-resourced schools had to scramble to get essential supplies, with scarce federal and state resources.

The need for masks is not diminishing. In response, United Way Worldwide (UWW) is partnering with The Business Roundtable and the CDC Foundation to launch America’s Mask Challenge, which calls on companies and organizations to help keep America’s students, teachers, and school staff safe for in-person instruction.

The goal is to get 200 million masks for students, teachers, and staff members at America’s most under resourced schools (those receiving federal Title I funds) between now and mid-May.

Local corporate partner HanesBrands has donated 25 million masks nationwide, which UWW and the company will distribute. Beginning in Forsyth County, the location of HanesBrands Corporate Headquarters, 150,000 masks will be distributed to students, teachers, and staff — five masks per person beginning the week of Jan. 11. An additional 100,000 masks will be distributed by HanesBrands to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in the coming weeks.

WS/FCS will launch the distribution at East Forsyth Middle School, according to Principal Donald Wyatt.

“These masks are one of the most important pieces of protective equipment when it comes to ensuring our students and staff are safe and protected,” Wyatt said. “This donation allows us to have a ready supply of high-quality, clean, comfortable masks for staff and students in the event they don’t have one, forget one, lose one or damage the one they have. You’ve heard the proverb it takes a whole village to raise a child. In times like this, we are very thankful our village includes engaged and active allies like United Way and Hanes Brands.”

Chris Fox, vice president corporate social responsibility at Hanesbrands Inc. notes, “United Way of Forsyth County has led the way in helping our neighbors through the pandemic. We’re proud of our long-term partnership and pleased to support United Way’s effort to help keep school children safe and healthy as they return to classrooms in January.”

Cindy Gordineer, president and CEO, United Way of Forsyth County said, “HanesBrands has always been a strong partner of United Way and the community and their support will help ensure our most vulnerable residents have masks to help keep them safe and slow the spread. We are urge other companies to join in this effort and take part in America’s Mask Challenge.”

This effort will ensure our most vulnerable population is equipped with protective gear to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our economically vulnerable students, teachers, and staff. As the challenge gains momentum, UWW will launch and administer the funds, and Hanes will produce and deliver the masks at cost. To learn more about participating in the Mask Challenge, go to www.unitedway.org .