Scots Lodge – A community’s labor of love for Rim High students

Apr 14, 2022 | Front Page

By Sean Eshelman
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer

They say “It takes a village” to raise a child, and the true value of a community comes from the way it treats its most vulnerable members. Thanks to the devotion of its volunteers and generosity of public donations, Scots Lodge at Rim of the World Highs School strives to offer a helping hand to the mountain’s students who need it, when they need it the most.

On March 29, after the last school buses had departed and classes ended, the high school opened its doors to the public to provide a tour of Scots Lodge in an effort to show the public where all their generous donations, gifts and support have gone over the past four years since the project had started.

The tour group, made up of a collection of locals including members of the Lions Club and the Rim of the World Historical Society, was led by Scots Lodge volunteers Jordana Ridland and Kristy Mrozek as well as ROP/CTE Coordinator Stephanie Phillips. Also present was Scots Lodge partner Angela Harrington of Mountain Counseling and Training.

“We want the community to have a chance to see all your generous donations first-hand,” Ridland said to the tour group as they gathered at the high school rotunda.

Known as the “Free Store” by students, Scots Lodge is a labor of love started approximately four years ago solely by volunteer efforts. The idea was simple: Provide the school’s most vulnerable or disadvantaged students with a helping hand, in the form of clothing, blankets, school supplies and even hygiene products, free of charge.

“It really comes down to whatever the student may need, even if it’s just showing them how to dress and prepare for cold weather,” Ridland said, referring to a student who had just moved to the mountain.
However, it’s not always easy for students to ask for help. Scots Lodge volunteers are conscious of the sense of guilt, shame and stigma associated with accepting charity. Thus, the lodge works diligently to maintain the dignity of students and therefore only opens its doors on an as-needed basis.

“We all know kids can be cruel,” Phillips said, explaining how the Lodge is generally accessed one student at a time under guidance of a teacher or staff in an effort to maintain confidentiality.

The tour proceeded from the rotunda area to Scots Lodge itself. Tucked away in a corner of a wing of the high school, it is a small collection of rooms designed to look like an actual retail operation, complete with clothing racks and shelves and even an area with neatly organized school supplies and hygiene products – all items that were donated by the public.

Volunteers stressed the need for high-quality items so that students will not be discouraged from accepting them.

“We try our best to avoid making the place look like a ‘thrift store,’” Ridland said, highlighting that a majority of the items are like-new or gently used.

Following the tour of the main store, the group proceeded to a secondary location on the floor above, where Scots Lodge volunteers painstakingly receive, organize and process newly donated items from the public. The room is also used to store and display collections of formalwear, including donated dresses, jewelry, shoes and other accessories.

Racks upon racks of clothing displays with colorful dresses hung ready for their use by the next student who needed them, whether it be the whole dress-shoes-jewelry set or just a nice purse to complete a look. This way, students without access to expensive formalwear items could now be a part of crucial events such as winter formal, prom or any other event or rite of passage a student might need the item for.

At the back of the room, large piles of various clothing items could be seen awaiting processing before being added to the main store on the floor below.

“Sorry for our mess,” said each one of the volunteers in some form or another during the tour of the room. Although given the scope of community generosity in plain sight, there was no mess.

Scots Lodge hopes to expand their formalwear offerings to a “dresswear exchange,” possibly even coordinated with other high schools in the area – all in an effort to reduce the stigma associated with accepting gently used items.

What can the public do to help and further the efforts of Scots Lodge? Donations are part of the equation, but volunteers hope to bring in higher quality, unopened or gently used items, all in order to make students feel more comfortable accepting help and avoiding highlighting whatever challenge they are going through.

Money is accepted and encouraged to be sent to Rim High PTA, which collects and disperses funds to Scots Lodge as needed.

Time is a crucial need, with additional volunteers needed to sift and organize all the donated items received by Scots Lodge throughout the year.

“The biggest reward of this effort is seeing the faces of students that walk into the store,” Phillips said, “Their faces are just shocked like, ‘Is this for me?’”

“We want our students to understand that no, you do deserve this, and the community is behind you,” Harrington said.

Scots Lodge is a prime example of what it looks like for a community to look after its own. Many of the tour members left their own bags brimming with donated items.

Anyone who would like to give back to Scots Lodge, whether in the form of money, time, donations or even to participate in their own tour of the facilities, may contact Phillips at [email protected]. Monetary donations can be made through the Rim of the World Parent Teachers Association.



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