Londonderry High Staff Stock Supply Closet for Students in Need

Londonderry High School students are finding they need not look any further than a utility closet at the school for assistance in times of need.

When Assistant Principal Abbey Sloper saw custodians at the school cleaning out lockers at the end of the academic year and trying to reunite missing items with students, her idea for the closet was born.

“I asked staff what we can do in our school to give back to kids in need,” she said. “We decided on starting a closet filled with donations from school supplies to toiletries and clothes. People doing their spring cleaning started donating everything from scientific calculators to backpacks, coats and clothing.”

Most recently, the Fire Department donated more than 40 winter coats from their Warm Coats Drive to the closet, ranging in sizes for children from age 5 to 17.

“We went over to the Fire Department and they had boxes upon boxes of brand new winter coats,” Sloper said.

Distributing the Fire Department’s winter coats through the closet at the high school was “definitely more discreet,” according to Sloper.

“I think it was a little more successful that way because the teachers have those relationships with the kids and pick up on things – like a student wearing a sweatshirt outside in the middle of winter,” she said. “It’s grassroots. We know these kids, we know who they are. And our asking if they need help is not to insult, it’s just to say, let me help.”

The concept of a stocked supply closet for students in need has been successfully applied in other schools.

At Alvirne High School in Hudson, Catie’s Closet offers a space where students can take a change of clothes, toiletries to wash up or gather a week’s worth of clothing. The space is a permanent resource for students in need.

Lack of access to basic necessities is one of the top reasons for absenteeism, according to Catie’s Closet.

By meeting students’ needs, closets like the one at Alvirne and now at Londonderry High School boost self-esteem and motivate students to attend school and focus on their education.

“This has been so effective,” Sloper said of the high school’s new closet. “People are so willing to donate the things students need. They will even say, just let us know what you need.”

When Sloper informed her network of teachers she had a student in need of a backpack, the response was overwhelming.

“I sent out a quick little email late at night that I needed a gender neutral backpack. When I got to school the next morning, there were about 15 backpacks at my door,” she said. “I had another situation where I had a student who got some things from the closet and they brought back a sibling to me and said, ‘Sloper will hook you up.’ I grabbed my keys and they got what they needed.’”

Sloper said the Fire Department’s donation was greatly appreciated by the students who received the warm jackets, and that she and her donors plan to support Local 3160’s next annual drive to purchase more coats for her students.

Londonderry Professional Fire Fighters secretary Chris Schofield said in a press release they hope to double their donations next year and encourage all members of the community to make a donation online at  HYPERLINK “https://donate.operationwarm.org/page/contribute/londonderry-local-no-3160-firefighters” https://donate.operationwarm.org/page/contribute/londonderry-local-no-3160-firefighters.

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