Two years ago, Audrey Butler was cleaning out her closets and came across several gently-used jackets her son no longer was wearing. She called a counselor at McNary High School in Keizer and asked if the jackets could be donated to students who might need them.

She was told “yes,” and Butler brought them to the school.

“I took them over and witnessed a child who was very grateful for a jacket and a snack bar,” she says. “It was his birthday.”

While there, Butler discovered that other students were trash diving for food to take home on weekends, and she realized more could be done to help students in need.

Through her efforts, some food and clothing were put in a closet for the students to “shop,” and The Klosets was born. That donation of a warm jacket on a cold day spurred an outreach to students at seven Keizer schools.

Each of the smaller schools serves about 100 students per quarter while McNary reaches out to between 300 to 500 students each quarter.

The Klosets’ offerings include food, school supplies, clothing, shoes and daily hygiene necessities such as hairbrushes, deodorant and feminine products.

“Kids now have snacks, shampoo and clean underwear,” Butler says. “Feeling accepted, they are more apt to focus on school. I recently had a child write a note to say ‘thank you.’ It’s made a difference in her getting through her last year of high school.”

Butler says the program has been very successful and is “pretty much self-sustaining with the help of peer groups in each school.” Feedback from students, teachers, staff and parents has been “all positive.”

Something she learned was that many teachers were spending money out of their own paychecks to help students with food and clothing. “Now they can keep their paychecks,” she says.

With the success of The Klosets, other students in the Salem-Keizer School District are taking notice and asking questions about how to start the program at their school.

“Keizer is complete, but I’ve met with four other school advocates about starting one in their area,” Butler says. “I was in charge of the Keizer Gift Basket Program for 12 years. I always wondered each year how I could help these kids during the other days of the year. This has been incredible, and the support has been amazing.”

An Emotional Growth Center teacher at one of the elementary schools says, “Many of my students have emotional disabilities. Thanks to all the donations that we have received, there have been several occasions where a snack has helped my students calm down or make it through the day.”

The Keizer Community Foundation has taken on The Klosets as a project and, Butler says, “the support and passion from that group has made it all possible.”

Of note

The Klosets accepts gently used jackets, hoodies and clothing children might wear. Donations may be left at the Keizertimes or Copy Cats, both in Keizer. Cash donations should be made payable to The Keizer Community Foundation, PO Box 20221, Keizer, OR 97303.

Visit The Klosets Facebook page or email m.me@keizerkloset.org.

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