Good teachers care about students' grades and well-being in the classroom; great teachers care about all areas of their students' success, both in and out of the school walls. This rings true at Niota Elementary School, as a group of teachers are taking the old proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child" to heart. Among these teachers are Heather Malick and Vanessa Bateman, both currently teaching kindergarten. They have seen a need within their school and are heading up a project they call The Comfort Closet.
"In the younger grades, we're always in need of extra clothes between accidents and spills," Bateman shared. "I think between those things and just knowing your students from listening to them, we begin to figure out things they may be in need of outside of those circumstances. We started talking about what we could do as a school family and as a community. We decided what our kids really needed was a place to get these supplies with no judgment, no questions, and easy access. The last thing we want our students worrying about are these basic needs."
This project's main goal is the comfort and dignity of the schools almost 600 students. Having clothes on site will prevent students wet from a spill or dirty from a muddy fall at recess from needing to wait on a parent for a change of clothes. The student will instead be able to quickly return to learning with their classmates, clean and dry. This also will be a blessing to many students who have deeper needs of these services with easy access and no judgment. Academics come easier when basic needs are met first.
Although this project is only in its first weeks, generous donations from parents and community members have already been coming in and are already being utilized by students.
"Our biggest goal right now is to stock up our closet with plenty of toiletries and clothing sizes," said Bateman. "Our vision for The Comfort Closet is that we can keep it stocked and never be missing what our students need. In long-term goals, we would love to have it stocked enough to branch out and start supplying whole families from our school, not just the students."
When asked how the community could help, Bateman requested, "Please consider donating any amount of supplies to keep us stocked, and please remember us. We want this to continue to grow and be a constant supply for our students. We have already had generous community members help us to a good start, but when you're talking about hygiene products, those are things that will constantly need to be replenished. We are also in need of some smaller shelving units and plastic totes to organize clothing."
This is an ongoing project that they hope will continue to be available to their students for years to come, so donations are always welcome now and in the future. They are collecting new and gently used clothes and shoes in all sizes from Pre-K to 8th grade. New packages of underwear sizes 4-8 tend to always be in high demand. Basic hygiene items they are collecting include: Shampoo, conditioner, bars of soap, deodorant, brushes, combs, toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine products, and laundry soap.
Donations to The Comfort Closet are currently being accepted at Niota Elementary's front office, but there are future plans for donation drop boxes in the parent pickup line and in the schools front entry.
The staff of Niota Elementary School are grateful for the outpouring of community support they have already received in this project and for the support yet to come.