Have you ever looked in your closet and said, "I don't have a thing to wear." Everyday thousands of students across Arizona look inside their closets and they "do not have a thing to wear." However, thanks to SaddleBrooke Community Outreach, which is located near the town of Catalina, Arizona, they help clothe students from Pinal and Gila counties through their Kids’ Closet program.
Kids’ Closet was first organized in 1997 and volunteers gathered gently used clothing, which they donated to Mammoth/San Manuel students. Over 300 students received clothing that first year. The next year, Mammoth Elementary School allowed Kids’ Closet to use an empty classroom that volunteers remodeled with fitting rooms so student would be able to try on clothes. The clothes that was now being distributed by Kids’ Closet was all new clothes, which was purchased using funds collected through a thrift resale store called Golden Goose, that supports Kids’ Closet.
After eight years in Mammoth, Kids’ Closet moved to the Gardner Learning Center in San Manuel, AZ where they were given seven empty classrooms. Five classrooms were used for storage and fitting rooms and two classrooms were set up for teaching as busloads of students arrived so the teacher could deliver lessons while students waited for their turn to shop. While based in San Manuel, Kids’ Closet served schools from the following communities: Catalina, Oracle, San Manuel, Mammoth, Winkelman, Kearny, Superior, and the San Carlos Reservation. The towns of Oracle, San Manuel, and Mammoth are within a ten mile radius to Kids’ Closet while San Carlos is located 100 miles away. During the last year in San Manuel, Kids’ Closet served 2268 students.
Realizing that their current facility was not able to efficiently serve 20 schools, Kids’ Closet began searching for a new location on which to build a new facility. News of Kids’ Closet looking for a new location reached the Town of Mammoth and the Town had an 11 acre parcel of land of which they leased 2.5 acres to Kids’ Closet for $1.00 a year on a 40 year lease. After all the surveys and legal documents were in order, the construction of the new building began in January 2012.
The construction of the new building was completed for the start of the 2012 – 2013 school year and a colleague and I travelled to the new facility with 75 students. As the buses pulled up to the parking lot, the building looks like a huge red warehouse. However, as you enter the building the inside looks nothing like a warehouse. Immediately, you are greeted by the volunteers and the walls are painted with beautiful murals. Two huge classrooms that can accommodate more than 75 children await teachers and students so they may work on their daily lessons as students wait for their turn to shop. Before moving to the new facility, it would take most of the day to outfit 75 to 100 students. Now Kids’ Closet volunteers can clothe the same amount of students in 2 1\2 hours.
Due to the generosity of Kids’ Closet and its volunteers, many of Pinal and Gila county K – 12 students can now look in their closets and happily say, "I now have something to wear!"