PAPILLION — The newest project from the Papillion La Vista Community Schools to serve its families in need — the PLCS Community Closet — had its official ribbon cutting Wednesday, Nov. 10, at Carriage Hill Elementary School.
PLCS Superintendent Andrew Rikli and numerous officials from around the area were on hand to formally open the store, which will provide students and their families confidential access to free clothing and essential items. The Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce sponsored the ribbon cutting.
Rikli had learned of a similar project at an educational conference. He asked Dr. Becky Meyers, Director of Elementary Human Resources and Student Services, to explore if PLCS could set up its own distribution system.
“So many people have done so much work to make this happen,” Rikli said. “The amount of interest from our community supporters has been phenomenal. It’s just great.”
Meyers said area food programs have been meeting hunger issues, but outlets that distribute clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, combs, detergent et al. are lacking. After researching existing programs, she said they came up with four goals: create a confidential resource for families with hardships; fill unmet needs; reduce the barriers to get basic needs; and provide service and learning opportunities for students. The hope is for the project to be on going and sustainable for the future.
For nearly a year, Meyers, staff members and a group of volunteers have been gathering new and unused clothing for the PLCS Community Closet from area business, clothing drives and other entities. The closet also worked with the City of La Vista on a recent coat drive that gave away 300 coats, and still some had to be turned away.
The closet works like a normal store, with the benefit of not having to pay for anything. Families make a confidential appointment to visit the shop themselves at Carriage Hill Elementary.
“Our families deserve that kind of confidentiality. We want to make sure they feel comfortable as they can be when they shop at the closet,” Meyers said.
The showroom at Carriage Hill contains about a quarter of the available items, with additional goods stored at Ashbury Elementary for any need. Since its soft opening at the beginning of the school year, more than 100 families have utilized the community closet. Its inventory has also grown from around 6,000 to 20,000 items, but there is a need for more.
“We really want this effort to be seamless. When families come in and make an appointment to shop in the closet, everything is free of charge. We don’t want to be putting too many barriers in place,” she said.
Interested families may make an appointment by calling 402-537-6279 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They may also contact their school’s principal, social worker or counsellor for more information on the PLCS Community Closet.