SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Students in need have access to free clothing and basic necessities through Catie’s Closet, a non-profit organization that opened their 100th closet.
“Life is hard enough, school is hard enough, and we’re hoping that by putting these resources in the schools the students turn to the schools to remove those obstacles,” Catie’s Closet program director for western Massachusetts, Dan Bisson told 22News.
That’s what Catie’s Closet does. They’re free closets inside of schools, like Springfield Middle School, that provide resources for students to feel confident and have the necessities to get through life.
“They can come in here and its like they’re shopping so they really look through the racks and they get to see what’s here and they get to pick what fits them and what they like and what they know they’re going to wear,” Springfield Public Schools Assistant Superintendent, Lydia Martinez, told 22News.
They started 11 years ago after Bisson’s sister died. His family wanted to do something more lasting than a scholarship. And now they serve 70,000 students in 100 locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
“Many of our students are out at bus stops sometimes for 20 minutes and its cold if you don’t have a coat,” Assistant principal of Springfield Middle School and Springfield Public Day Middle School, Linda Singer told 22News.
The closet isn’t just about providing clothing and uniforms for the students, in the back of the closet in Springfield Middle School, they also have toiletries like acne kits, shampoo, and deodorant that students can use outside of school. “We’re always trying here in Springfield to ensure that our families have everything they need. We like to take the barriers out of the way so that our children can actually learn,” Martinez continued.
The closets are also a way to build connections between students and teachers. “We really care about them but when we do something tangible like that they know that we care about them and love them,” Singer said.
Catie’s Closet, relies on donations from the community when it comes to their clothing offerings. While monetary donations allows Catie’s Closet to expand into more schools. It costs the organization $25,000 to open a closet and $10,000 a year to maintain each one. Anyone interested in donating new or gently used clothing or new, full-sized, toiletries should contact Dan Bisson at email@example.com or view the Amazon wish list for Springfield area schools.
According to a news release sent to 22News from Catie’s Closet, 3,000 students in Springfield and Holyoke will be able to take advantage of basic necessities they may lack, such as clothing, jackets, socks, undergarments, hygiene items, school supplies, hats, gloves, and more. “We’re really working to try and put a Catie’s Closet in every building in Springfield Public Schools,” Martinez said. Right now they have four and are working on eight more.
During school hours, students accompanied with a faculty member can visit Catie’s Closet. There are locations in seven schools in western Massachusetts, including Lincoln Elementary School, Milton Bradley Elementary School, Rebecca M. Johnson Elementary School, and Springfield Middle School in Springfield. Also H.B. Lawrence Elementary School, Veritas Prep, and William R. Peck Middle School in Holyoke.
Springfield Public Schools spokesperson, Azell Cavaan, told 22News that if any Springfield Public Schools student is in need of the items provided in Catie’s Closet but does not have a location in their school, they can contact the main office via email at 413-787-7100.