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Wolfle’s Clothing Closet
KINGSTON — Students come up to Sherry Pariser frequently to ask for help tying their shoes. The Wolfle Elementary School para-educator, known around the school as “Ms. P,” often sees more than a pair of loose laces.
“I’m tying kids’ shoes and they’re falling off and broken,” she said. “And they’re not even half a size too big, they are two sizes too big.”
Pariser transferred to Wolfle for the 2013-14 school year. She previously worked at Gordon Elementary for about eight years. There is a disparity between the need for new clothes at Wolfle and Gordon, she said.
Wolfle has the largest percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced meals in North Kitsap School District. Of the 356 students in May 2013, 202 qualified for the meal plans, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Report Card.
Knowing the kind of need there is at the school, Pariser decided to take it upon herself to begin helping clothe students.
Pariser is stocking a Clothing Closet in the school with new and gently used clothing. From shoes to jackets — and even a dinosaur backpack rumored to be saved for a lucky student — the school-based program is meant to help give students some extra outfits.
The Closet officially opened April 7. By the morning of April 8, Pariser was already putting together clothes to send home with a family.
There’s much more need for clothing than shoes.
One day a student came into school looking as though she was covering something up in her jacket. Pariser found out she was covering a large hole in her pants. Pariser took the student to the office to find a change of pants.
While in the office, Pariser found two pairs of pants: one much too small, the other much too large. She gave the student the large pair, trying to make the best of the situation.
Schools in the district typically keep extra clothing — for students to borrow — on hand. Pariser asked the office where all the spare clothes were.
“ ‘We have them, but when we send the kids home with them, [the clothes] never come back,’ ” Pariser said, quoting what she was told.
“Who would want to keep [the loaners]? … Well, because [the students] need them.”
That may have been the moment when Pariser decided to take action.
Some students have torn or ill-fitted clothing and are limited on what they can wear. Pariser has seen students wearing the same clothes as the day before, after having slept in them, she said.
She hopes the Clothing Closet will change that.
The school has purchased sweat pants in case students need to change. Jackets are available, shirts and undergarments are folded neatly in a dresser, and shoes are lined up in the Closet for students to take home and keep. There’s room for plenty more.
The Closet and ShareNet, a local nonprofit, have discussed a partnership. ShareNet already provides food to students in the four Kingston schools via the Food to Grow On program; every Friday, students are sent home with food for the weekend. The two entities will now help provide students with clothing; that partnership could include using ShareNet’s facilities to wash the clothing and financial assistance. ShareNet will provide the Closet with suitable clothing, according to Executive Director Mark Ince.
Pariser said the Closet may be able to package clothing together for students at the end of the week, just like Food to Grow On.
“Wolfle and ShareNet are in direct partnership in giving kids in need in the community better tools and a better chance at succeeding,” Ince wrote to the Herald. “ShareNet really values its relationship with all four local schools, and is really grateful for the community support that allows us to serve school needs.”
According to information from ShareNet, about 20 percent of kids’ clothing donated to the nonprofit is suitable for redistribution.
The Closet and ShareNet don’t need hand-me-downs in poor shape, because that is what the students already have, Pariser said.
Jackets and gloves aren’t too difficult to come by to redistribute. Pants, shoes, socks, underwear and pajamas are more sought after. Pariser said she has been purchasing socks and underwear new at discount.
Along with assistance from ShareNet, Pariser will apply for grants and seek business partners to assist increasing the clothing supply.
Though the students may feel uncomfortable with clothing that needs to be replaced, Pariser said students are never treated differently. Sure, it is bothersome to have clothes or shoes with holes, but Pariser doesn’t believe that students are subjected to teasing because of their clothing.
“I’ve never seen kids teasing,” she said. “Kids all seem to love each other. This school does seem like a family.”
STUDENTS ON FREE OR REDUCED MEALS
Wolfle: 202 of 356 students
Suquamish: 211 of 421 students
Gordon: 141 of 426 students
Pearson: 115 of 286 students
Poulsbo: 184 of 507 students
Vinland: 140 of 450 students
— OSPI Report Card