Closet of Care; A Shining Example of Compassion in the Community

Closet of Care; A Shining Example of Compassion in the Community

Chloe Santiago

    Winter Park High School is home to a variety of students; math whizzes, future football stars, and budding artists can all be found half asleep in first period at 7:20am. Although, some students aren’t as fortunate as others.  Have you ever been unsure of when your next meal is coming?  Or if you’ll have a jacket for this winter?  If the answer is no, you may be in luck.

Thankfully, this isn’t an unsolvable problem.  Initially started by Mrs. Hyde, Winter Parks Closet of Care–otherwise known as Willie’s Mart–is just one of the many ways that the community provides for students in need.  Originating at the 9th grade campus, Closet of Care has grown over the years.  This program is open every Tuesday and Thursday in room 141 on the main campus for any student in need.  The PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association), who are mainly responsible for the Closet, regularly send out newsletters to parents with requests for supplies.  Requests can include items like spiritwear, toiletries, and food.  These items are dropped off in buckets, pictured below, that are located on both the 9th grade and main campus.

Additionally, the Closet of Care has an Amazon wishlist where anyone can buy the desired items on the list and have them sent directly to the school.  The supplies are then picked up by volunteers who staff the Closet.  For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian requests were sent out for nonperishables for students who were affected by the storm.  

When asked about the positive effects of the program, Mrs. Young, one of the Closet’s organizers, said, “It helps supply clothes for kids who have a harder time at home and can’t go out and purchase them.  We’re able to give food and snacks to kids who may not be able to afford it.  It’s providing for our community.”

The main issue that the Closet of Care faces is that one size does not fit all.  If a student needs something like shoes and the Closet doesn’t have any in their size, not much can be done. 

 “Recently, I had a student who needed a belt and there wasn’t one that fit them,” Mrs. Young explained.  “The only challenge is really having specific items that are needed.”

To combat this issue, parents and volunteers will pitch in or the specific item will be put on the online wishlist.  Of course, donating to the Closet is not only limited to parents.  Students can give as little or as much as they’d like to help.  

Amy Skena, a volunteer for two years at the closet, shared her perspective.  “”I’m very fortunate that I have time, so I decided I could come in on certain lunches.  I volunteer to alleviate stress for students.  I know being a student you have a lot going on; academics, stuff at home, and if grabbing an extra outfit, school supplies, or food–whatever you need–would make your day a little easier, then I want to do that for you.  I guess I love it when someone comes in looking for something and we have it, and we can make them happy.”