Expanding Catie’s Closet in Springfield

City Connects Coordinators always ask the same important questions: What do students need? How can Coordinators help? How can community partners help? 

Asking these questions at the Indian Orchard Elementary School in Springfield, Mass., led to a productive partnership.

“We’ve collected clothing donations on our own, and we still do,” Shandria McCoy says. McCoy and Alaina Lyman are Indian Orchard’s City Connects Coordinators. “But last year our principal asked me about bringing Catie’s Closet to our school.”

It’s a great match. Catie’s Closet is a nonprofit organization that provides students with donated clothes by setting up spaces in schools where students can go to get these clothes. And students at Indian Orchard sometimes need clothes, especially since they wear school uniforms – khaki or navy blue pants and blue or white shirts. Springfield Public Schools started requiring school uniforms in 2008 to help students stay focused on schoolwork. 

But for some families, affording clothes can be a challenge. 

“We do have some parents who call and say they don’t have school uniforms and that’s why their child was absent,” McCoy says. 

“Catie’s Closet helps because it’s basically a free, in-school store where students and families have access to school uniform clothing and other clothes as well. We can special order sneakers and shoes. They also have toiletries, including toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash, shampoo, soap, and laundry detergent sheets available for our students and families.”

“Catie’s Closet helps us keep up with the most popular sizes of clothes,” Lyman adds. “And they help us with fifth grade girls who are already wearing women’s sizes. We special order these clothes, and Catie’s Closet is great about filling those orders. ”

At Indian Orchard, Catie’s Closet is set up near the school’s main office and nursing area, which makes it easy for the school nurses – who are aware of families’ needs – to help distribute clothes. Children can try the clothes on in a nearby bathroom.

“We’re able to give people their privacy, keep things confidential, and make people feel comfortable,” McCoy says. 

Faculty and staff also tap Catie’s Closet. Teachers ask us for uniform clothes or other items for their students. And McCoy and Lyman have made sure that staff in the main office know they can send students who arrive at school without their uniforms to Catie’s Closet. 

Children who have been through a crisis, such as a house fire, can count on Catie’s Closet to provide them with what they need. 

This partnership is one of many City Connects examples of how the question, “How can we help?” is transformed into “How can we provide systematic help?

It’s these generous and effective systems of support that help students focus on school, and that help schools focus on education. 

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