Evergreen elementary expands its clothing bank
Wed., April 6, 2022
Jennifer Boomer, head of the PTO at Evergreen Elementary in North Spokane, stands by a shed outside the school which is serving as a clothes closet for storing extra clothing donated for students who need extra clothes during the school day for a variety of reasons. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)Buy a print of this photo
The Evergreen Elementary School PTO has spent this year creating a clothing bank for students in need and is looking forward to career and technical education students at Mead High School building a shed to give to the PTO to house its clothes closet.
PTO President Jennifer Boomer, who volunteers at the school, said she’s seen students wear the same clothes to school every day because those clothes are the only ones that fit. School social worker Tina Caskey said the goal is to help parents in need at Evergreen. “We’ve just seen the need grow, even before COVID,” she said. “We’re seeing more working poverty. They’re trying hard. Things are more expensive, but wages aren’t rising.”
While the Mead School District has a clothing bank for parents and families, it’s at a central location that is only open during the day and requires an appointment, Caskey said. “We wanted this to be accessible,” she said. “We can just send a bag home with the kids. We don’t want parents to be embarrassed. People have pride and we want to honor that for them.”
About half of the school’s 495 students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Boomer said the school has unique demographics. “We’ve got the wealthiest of the wealthy who live in gate communities and the poorest of the poor who live in the run-down apartments by the library,” she said.
Both women said they’ve been impressed by how compassionate people in the school are to one another. Caskey said she’s had students come to her and tell her that another student needs assistance. Caskey also said that she has some school families that she can call for donations if she has a student that needs something she can’t provide.
Making sure students have what they need is what drives both women. Boomer said she got the idea for a clothes closet after school board member Michael Cannon asked her what her goals were this year. After some thought, she said she wanted to make sure the basic needs of students were met. Since then, she’s been doing her best to collect a wide variety of clothing, coats, shoes, socks and underwear.
“We’ve been taking donations just by word of mouth,” Boomer said. “We’re pretty particular. We want quality, nice stuff that kids will be excited to wear.”
Currently, the clothes are mostly stuffed in plastic totes that are stored in the PTO shed next to the carnival cutouts, popcorn machine and other supplies. But work has been going on behind the scenes to get another shed for the school that will house the clothes closet.
Each year the career and technical education students have a Trades Day organized by the Spokane Homebuilders Association where students can work with local companies to learn basic skills in different areas. During this year’s event, scheduled for May 21 and 22, students from Mead High School and Spokane Public Schools will work with local contractors to build four sheds, two for the Mead district and two for Spokane Public Schools. One of those sheds will become Evergreen’s new clothes closet.
The new shed will make it possible to display the clothes better and keep them organized. “We want to make it a boutique,” Boomer said. “We want kids to go shopping.”
She’s also collecting clothes and shoes for older and younger children as well so that they can help older and younger siblings of Evergreen’s students. “Our goal is to not turn anyone down,” Caskey said. “We have some bigger shoes right now and bigger coats.”
The clothes closet will also benefit students at the nearby Shiloh Elementary School, Boomer said, which has an even higher rate of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. “We’re going to be giving their social worker a key to the shed so they can access it too,” Boomer said.
This year has made it clear that a clothes closet is highly needed. Boomer said as she was collecting a large amount of donations at the beginning of the year, she thought she’d never go through it all. She was wrong.
“I have refilled and restocked, refilled and restocked, refilled and restocked,” she said. “I knew we needed it, but I didn’t realize how much.”
Anyone who would like to donate new or gently used items to the Evergreen clothes closet can contact Boomer at email@example.com.
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