by Lisa Tome
Cristin Clarke and Jaime Hartline like to dress well but neither is in the fashion business.
Instead, the pair work as adolescent psychologists, moms to many, and wear a number of other hats in their jobs as teachers at North East Middle School.
On Friday December 11, Clarke, who is a first year special education teacher at the school, and Hartline, a veteran teacher, teamed up to provide a clothing shop for students in need.
In less than a week, the women gathered enough clothing to fill a store. But their store was the school library and students shopped by appointment. The idea of providing a free clothing shop at the school came from a Family School Committee meeting. The idea was first approved by school administration. The PTSO supported it. "We just noticed kids wearing clothes with holes or they would wear the same thing everyday. Or their clothes would be too small or too big," said Clarke.
On December 4, an email went out. Within a week, they were inundated with clothing donations. Some items came from staff and their families. Others through PTSO donations. The shop had everything - for both men and women, from t-shirts and hoodies to pajamas, handbags, and bras. The clothing was sorted by size and type. A family member of a teacher bought and donated new items. Other staff volunteered their time to sort and fold items.
There was no specific criteria established for students to get clothes. But it was decided that all those who received items would be allowed to choose them without others watching. That's why appointments for students were scheduled throughout the day, to protect their privacy.
Teachers recommended students they thought could use help. Permission slips went home and some parents stated there wasn't a need. Another parent sent a word of gratitude. "We got an email from a parent. It said 'He's (the student) growing fast and our funds can't keep up'," the teachers explained.
The recent free clothing shop likely won't be the last. The school will host another in the spring. Hartline said that she sorts her clothes every season and would donate them to charity. She's glad she can now donate them to the school. Any items left from last week's clothing will be be given to local men's and women's shelters and distributed within the North East community.