By Mary-Justine Lanyon
First there was Cinderella’s Closet, which provided prom dresses for girls who couldn’t afford to buy one. Then there was Mr. Nygren’s Club, with dress clothes for the boys.
When school board members Cindy Gardner and Jordana Ridland discovered that other schools had clothes closets for their homeless students, they decided to establish Scots’ Lodge – a place where the students can pick up both new and gently used clothing, toiletries and nonperishable food.
Last June, Laurie Majors – a longtime member of the Mountain Jewish Community, which donates thousands of dollars to other local organizations each year – approached Rim High Principal Dave Nygren, asking where their money would best be used at the school.
“He told me about Scots’ Lodge,” Majors said, “so I went shopping for boys and girls. I took it upon myself to raise money and get that resource going.”
Since September, Majors has raised about $5,000 from a variety of sources.
“I am constantly writing grants and donation requests,” she said. “Our mountain community has been very compassionate and generous for the 59 students identified as homeless at Rim High who, through no fault of their own, are in this predicament.”
The district liaison for homeless students gets donations of healthy snack bars and water bottles, Majors noted. “My goal has been to enhance that by getting personal hygiene supplies, bedding, food, shoes and jeans.” She has added toilet paper, tissues and the monthly feminine hygiene supplies needed by the school’s girls.
Now Majors is trying to get shelving units and clothing racks for the original closet and the second room that has recently been added.
“This is an on-site resource where the students can walk in and walk out a few minutes later with their dinner for the night or a new pair of pajamas or shoes,” she said.
“To know that a child came in and got himself a new pair of shoes that no one has ever worn before is a big deal,” Majors said. “There should be a sensitivity to their requirements for their age. Their self-esteem is vital.”
Some items – like pajamas and underwear – must be purchased new. For that reason, Majors encourages folks wishing to donate to write a check, give cash or purchase gift cards for local stores or Target or Wal-Mart. “I will ask the donor how they want me to spend their donation,” she said.
“Some will ask me to buy boys underwear while others say to use it where I think I need it the most.”
The local Rotary clubs have been very generous, Majors said. The Mountain Sunrise Rotary Club gave her $750. “They understand that life is expensive and the children are our future. It is worth whatever we can put into them.”
When Gaston Maya, president of the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club, heard that Majors could use some sleeping bags, he found 45 new ones at a liquidator and purchased them. Homeless students can now take those warm bags with them as they couch surf from friend to friend. Majors also has other bedding and new pillows for the students to take.
Local dentists have donated toothbrushes, floss and toothpaste for the closet.
Majors would love to be able to set up a day of free haircuts for the students, a project she is still looking into.
“People are surprised that we have that number of homeless students up here,” she said. “My understanding is the kids who go to Scots’ Lodge are very appreciative and surprised that someone would do this kindness for them.” Majors, of course, does not meet the students as everything is done in the strictest confidence.
“We are careful about following the guidelines of good ethics and school rules,” she said.
“This has always been the small town with a big heart,” Majors added. “People come out of the woodwork to help their friends, neighbors and complete strangers.”
Her hope is to have Scots’ Lodge open a few weeks before the start of the next school year so the students can do their back-to-school shopping.
“Unfortunately, this issue is going to be ongoing,” Majors said.
To make a donation – whether a check, cash, gift card, gently used clothing, toiletries, even hangars – email Majors at [email protected].