Raider Closet seeking donations for kids in need

Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Holland Elementary special education teacher Aundrea Wilson sorts clothes donated to Raider Closet after school on Tuesday afternoon. "My main reason for starting Raider Closet was because I was raised by a single mom and I remember having a growth spurt and having to wait until my mom got paid to get clothes that fit," Wilson explained. This is the first year the Raider Closet is available to families at Holland Elementary. Wilson is hoping to raise money to also purchase new socks and underwear.

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

HOLLAND — When Holland Elementary special education teacher Aundrea Wilson visited Goodwill last year, she often bought clothes for her students in need alongside items for herself and her family.

This year, however, Wilson decided to expand her mission to cover all the families in need in the Holland Elementary School community through Raider Closet. Raider Closet is open to needy families in the school as determined by the Indiana Department of Education’s free and reduced lunch program. According to data from the IDOE, about 65 of Holland’s 192 students are on free or reduced lunch.

Once fully up and running, the closet will be stocked with donated clothes from the community that families in need can draw on to get a hand up. Many of the families, Wilson said, have two or more children, so when all the kids hit a growth spurt at the same time, keeping all the kids in properly fitting clothes is tough.

“It’s hard to go out and purchase those things, especially when you’re struggling to put food on the table,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s desire to help stemmed from her own childhood when her mother, who was a single parent, struggled to keep Wilson and her siblings in properly fitting clothes, especially when they hit growth spurts.

“I remember being really embarrassed as a kid,” Wilson said of when she had to wear clothes that didn’t fit. “I didn’t want (my students) to start the day feeling embarrassed.”

Raider Closet has already provided a student with clothing this year. The day after receiving the clothes, Wilson said, the student wore some of the garments to school and ran up to Wilson to show off the clothes.

“I said, ‘You look so cute,’” Wilson said.

Wilson’s original plan for Raider Closet was to team up with the Backpack Buddies program that provided a backpack of food each week to needy families to make sure kids had nutritious food to eat over the weekend. When she asked about the program, however, Wilson found out the Southwest Dubois County School Corporation had lost the grant that paid for Backpack Buddies.

“It’s crazy how (programs) like that can disappear so easily,” Wilson said. “They have such an impact on our school.”
Undeterred, Wilson decided to take up Backpack Buddies in addition to Raider Closet. So far, she’s gotten several cash donations from the community to restart Backpack Buddies at Holland and has piles of clothes to sort through for Raider Closet.

For now, Wilson said, she’s keeping the programs within Holland until she can get them up and going. Since the other schools in the corporation have a high number of students on free and reduced lunch — Huntingburg Elementary, for example, has 408 of its 614 students on free or reduced lunch — she wanted to make sure the projects would work on a smaller scale before expanding. She’s hoping to be able to share Raider Closet with Huntingburg Elementary later this year, though that depends on how donations come in.

With winter coming up, Wilson said, Raider Closet is in need of long-sleeve shirts, jeans and coats. Sizes range from 4T to children’s 14 or 16, and even small adult sizes for the fifth-graders. Packages of new underwear and socks are also needed.

Those interested in donating to Backpack Buddies or Raider Closet can contact Wilson via email at wilsona@swdubois.k12.in.us.




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