Eleven San Jacinto Valley families were the first to take advantage Hemet Unified School District’s grand opening of its District Closet Wednesday, Dec. 13, which is designed to help children enrolled in district schools to select stylish clothing they would be otherwise unable to purchase.
Leading the effort to open the District Closet was Tracey Piper, HUSD’s director of support services, and the teachers and staff of the district’s Students Achieving Independent Living Success workability program at the Santa Fe Education Center, 831 E. Devonshire Avenue, in Hemet.
When the doors of the District Closet opened for the first time, the families found racks of new coats donated by Burlington Coat Factory, containers full of socks and underwear donated by the Hemet Sunrise Rotary, new and serviceable shirts, pants, dresses and blouses, along with tables full of soft drinks and snacks.
Some of the families were large with many children. Assisting them in making their clothing selections were Piper; Cheryl Williams, an adult life skills teacher; volunteers; 2018 Mrs. Hemet and HUSD instructional aide Michelle Kerlin and some of the S.A.I.L. program students. HUSD also partners with Famous Footwear, so that needy children can obtain new shoes with help from the district.
When the selections were made, the families presented the staff their clothing vouchers received from parent liaisons in the elementary schools and the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support technicians at the district’s secondary schools. Those students receiving the vouchers showed a need for clothing suitable in school to improve their self-esteem, have low-income families or are even homeless.
“We kind of expanded our services to focus on homeless and foster youth. We have a great deal of homeless and foster youth in our district,” Piper said. “I have a team that works directly with the homeless and foster youth. We were supplying them with school supplies, backpacks, bus passes, P.E. uniforms. We realized how great the need was for clothing. So, we wanted to find a way they could find clothing first, so they could come to school and feel ready for the day… so we opened the Closet today.”
Now the District Closet will be open Wednesdays after the holidays for those students with vouchers or by appointment. Keeping the District Closet clothing laundered, stocked and organized will be the responsibility of the S.A.I.L. students, who receive community service credits and even a little pay for their effort. Also, they will help solicit and gather the donated clothing from local stores and the community.
The HUSD S.A.I.L. workability program is designed for men and women ages 18-22, who have completed high school but because of their disabilities still need to learn additional life skills and need help in finding and keeping employment. There are currently 36 students enrolled in the workability program, which is made possible through state grants. Williams said the District Closet on campus is an ideal place for the student to learn needed skills.
Donations of new and serviceable children’s clothing are welcome at the HUSD District Closet in the S.A.I.L. workability program building, 831 E. Devonshire Ave., in Hemet. For more information, contact www.hemetusd.org.