Local News

Thursday, Mar 06 2014 11:42 AM

Teacher's charitable effort aims to clothe kids in need

BY LAUREN FOREMAN Californian staff writer lforeman@bakersfield.com

Nine racks of clothing have replaced the double-seater desks that once filled classroom 44 on the McKee Middle School campus.

Instead of books, stacks of jeans fill shelves and cases. T-shirts decorate the walls.

Susan Holloway, the room decorator and a sixth-grade teacher at the school in south Bakersfield, transformed the room in November 2012 with a goal in mind: A clothing bank for students in need.

"You see the kids every day," Holloway said. "You know the ones that have holes in their shoes."

Teachers also know the students with no coats in the winter, she added: "How do you expect them to listen to you and partake in any lesson when they're freezing to death?"

Holloway developed the clothing bank with clothes she had collected over the years and items school and family members donated.

She said she had acquired a mass of her own kids' clothes and had planned to donate them to a local nonprofit. But when the organization closed its collection facet, the group matched her with one family in need.

Holloway met the mother of the family in a hotel room in which she lived with her children. The woman hugged the teacher with tears in her eyes. "It made me think from a mother to a mother, you always want to provide for your children, and she was in a position where she couldn't provide," Holloway said.

McKee opened Holloway's clothing bank to students at schools throughout the 9,300-student Greenfield Union School District a couple of weeks ago. It had served about 100 students at McKee. "I want other teachers reaching out," Holloway said.

McKee Principal Bethany Ferguson said about 80 percent of the school's students receive free or reduced-priced lunches. "So we have the socio-economic need for this," she said.

Chris Crawford, superintendent of the district, said the program is both an asset for students throughout the district and an avenue for the community to extend support.

A dentist's office supplied boxes of toothpaste and toothbrushes. Donors provided travel-sized toiletries. And staff members, volunteers, friends and family helped fill clothing racks assembled in half-moons, circles and L shapes.

Many donors give anonymously.

"That's really to me the heart of this," Holloway said. "They're not doing it for recognition. They're just doing it to help the kids."

Holloway said helping students is the goal that drove initial development of the clothing bank.

Anyone who would like to donate can call the school at 837-6060 or visit it at 205 McKee Road.

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