By Dave Ongie
It all started as a brainstorming session during a long car ride.
Science Hill students Sarah Miller and Rachel Lemkin were passing the miles thinking of possible service projects that would benefit the school when they hit on a need they didn’t feel was being met.
“We had noticed over the years that students come in in the wintertime and they are wearing short sleeves, they don’t have jackets, they’re wearing shorts or their shoes don’t fit,” Miller said. “We just thought a clothing closet would be a really good idea to make a huge impact in the school and benefit the community as a whole.”
A year and a half later, their vision became a reality as their clothing closet officially opened for business last week inside what used to be a classroom. Lemkin credited Science Hill principal Todd Barnett for providing the classroom that now houses the clothing closet, which allows students in need of clothing and shoes to discretely pick out what they need.
“We brought it to the new administration, and they were super-excited about it,” she said. “They gave us a classroom right off the bat, which was really nice, so we just got to work.”
When Miller and Lemkin spread the word about the program, the faculty and staff at Science Hill stepped up to help, as did the community at large. When the K-Mart store closed, they donated metal clothing racks. Meanwhile, several second-hand clothing stores around the community donated gently used clothing, shoes and accessories, as did faculty members.
Bonnie White, the Homeless Education Coordinator for the Johnson City School System, said the new clothing closet will make a huge difference for students in need.
“That’s a wonderful program, because a lot of those kids won’t ask,” White said. “When they get that old, (they’re too) prideful to go and say they need something. The way they set that up at Science Hill, all you have to do is have a counselor open it for you.”