WILLIAMSON COUNTY, TEXAS - New shirts, new shoes -- it all adds up. And not everyone can afford it.
As the first day of school looms, the Leander Independent School District PTA wants to make sure kids have something to wear that they're excited about. So they're trying to get the word out about their Clothes Closet.
"Here at the Clothes Closet, we give away free gently-used school clothes to any student in Leander ISD regardless of income,” said volunteer Poppy Jones.
Students -- pre-K through high school -- must get a paper from their school verifying they’re a student. Then they can go shopping.
"A lot of people don't know that almost one in four students in our district are economically disadvantaged, so there's just a lot of kids out there that we can help,” said Jones.
Each semester, each student can get five tops, five bottoms, four outerwear items and five pairs of new underwear and socks.
"They can come as many times as they want until they've met their quota,” said Jones.
Jones said last year they served 430 students, with more than 15,000 clothing items.
"We want kids to be able to come here and get things that they can be excited to wear to school,” said Jones.
And they take pride doing it. Volunteers sort through and separate the clothing donations they get.
"We just want to put the best clothes out that we can, and since we have so many donations, we can be picky and get rid of the stuff we don't need and pick some really cute stuff to set out,” said Jones.
They don’t accept clothes with holes or stains, and they must be in style.
"That had marker on it,” said one volunteer as she tossed a shirt into the “no” bin. "We want to make sure everything we give them is good quality.”
They even tag each item, and if it’s been in the “store” for more than a year, they donate it, or allow families to exceed their semester allotment.
"They'll come in and they'll look for things that they need and maybe they're already over their allotment, but they need, because somebody changed sizes or whatever,” said Jones.
The LISD PTA Clothes Closet will accept jeans, pants, skirts, shorts, shirts, sweaters, dresses, coats, jackets, sweatshirts, tennis shoes and closed-toe shoes.
They will also accept new socks and underwear.
They will not accept anything that is stained, torn, worn out or missing buttons or broken zippers. They don’t take shirts that have logos from schools, camps or businesses. And they won’t take prom outfits, pajamas or clothes for people over 18 years old, or under 4 years old.
Items that they don’t take, they donate to other local nonprofits.
"I think for a lot of these kids, they don't have much at all, and just to be able to fit in a little more with their peers," said Jones.
According to the district more than 18 percent of the students district wide are "economically disadvantaged," so every one of these donations help.
"Just to help ease that stress and burden from those kids lives,” said Jones.
The closet has been around since the 1980s, but just went through a major upgrade last year.
"It kind of moved around until we got into this building, and it’s just grown little by little, and improved every year until we've gotten to where we are today,” said Jones.
But, she feels like not enough people know about the opportunity.
"We do need to get the word out more, a lot of people don’t know that we're out here,” said Jones.
The “store” is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the school year, as well as one Saturday per month.
They always need donations and volunteers.
"We always have a high demand for girls' leggings and we also always need athletic shorts for boys and girls,” said Jones.
Each Leander school has a donation bin. There’s also a large one outside the PTA Clothes Closet.
"We love it, I mean all of us are very passionate about what we do, we love hearing people's stories when they come in, how excited the kids get when they find something that they love, so that's why we do what we do,” said Jones.
You can also donate on their Amazon Wish List here.
You can find more information on their website here.
The closet is located at 324 South West Drive in Leander, Texas.
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