012918-blm-loc-1clothingpantry

Special education teacher Angel Warman, left, and Loretta Phillips, right, para-professional, talk on Jan. 3 about the clothing room at Charleston High School in Charleston.

KEVIN KILHOFFER, PANTAGRAPH NEWS SERVICE

CHARLESTON — After one of her students got in trouble, Charleston High School teacher's aide Loretta Phillips took him to the school assistant principal.

When asked where he wanted to be in five years, the student said he didn't know and had other, more weighing concerns.

"He said, 'I don't know where the hell I'm going to sleep tonight,'" Phillips said.

Special education teacher Angel Warman said there also was a student at the school who was wearing the same pants every day. She said he was "in awe" when someone took the time to help him.

The two CHS staff members said those and other students benefit from the clothing pantry they've organized at the school.

"That's the kind of kids we're trying to help," Phillips said.

Two years ago, Warman realized some students weren't going to prom or other school dances because they didn't have the right attire. She began collecting formal wear, told other teachers about the effort and it "evolved" into more.

The reaction was such that it went from having a small room for prom dresses and the like to CHS Principal Trevor Doughty allowing the use of an unused classroom for the clothing pantry.

At first, Phillips kept the donated clothing in her classroom, which soon became "packed," she said. Students eventually helped organize the clothing because the amount donated meant "you had to dig through" to find a particular item, she said.

Materials to make clothing racks also were donated, and the clothing and other items are now sorted and displayed much the way they would be in a store.

"We just felt they could walk in and find what they want and feel like they were shopping," Warman said.

The most in-demand items have been clothing for colder weather such as coats and jackets, hooded sweatshirts, long-sleeve shirts, hats and gloves.

And Warman and Phillips said there are other benefits to the students beside having weather-appropriate clothing.

For one, the pantry can help make sure they have clothes that are appropriate for job interviews and help educate them on what to wear while looking for a job, they said.

Also, giving them a choice in clothing helps them "be like their peers" and "not just the kid wearing the same shirt every day," Phillips said.

The clothing pantry is open to students who express needs and also is used by students whom the CHS staffers recognize as needing it.

Students are limited to one visit each month and about 50 have used it so far this school year. The clothing is bagged for them so they can be discreet about taking it.

"They're very grateful," Phillips said.

In addition to clothing, the pantry also has other items available, including book bags, sunglasses, jewelry and some personal hygiene products.

Warman and Phillips said donations are welcome, and the biggest needs are women's clothing in size medium or larger, team sportswear and name-brand clothes along with shoes and hangers. They added that they could also use more clothing racks or money to buy them.

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