New program provides necessary supplies for students
ARLEE – Navigating homework, friendships and extracurricular activities is a large order for any student but those without stable living situations face even deeper challenges. A new resource at the Arlee School District is intended to provide homeless students with supplies that meet their basic needs. The closet includes winter clothing, gym clothes, hygiene items and food.
“Being without resources can prevent students from participating fully,” teacher Anna Baldwin said. “Kids have needs and their needs should be met.”
Baldwin created the “closet cache,” which opened Jan. 13. She retrofitted a large walk-in closet to hold the resource. Baldwin improved the lighting, papered the shelves, and filled them with supplies using a grant from the Office of Public Instruction.
Baldwin said nearly 10 percent of Arlee students qualify as homeless. Many aren’t homeless in the traditional sense of the word but are temporarily living with another family due to financial constraints and don’t have their own space. In these situations, families are often unable to purchase necessities to support their children. “Then resources become scarce,” Baldwin said.
According to Baldwin, the community response has been robust. She shared a post about the closet on her personal Facebook page, and by Saturday, the post had been shared 37 times. Baldwin said that’s the most times her Facebook friends have ever shared a post she made. Within days, several community members had contacted Baldwin hoping to support the project.
“I’m not surprised by the community support, but I am surprised by the vigor of the response,” Baldwin said.
The closet also serves as a central location for items that have been donated to the school in the past but haven’t been distributed. Students who need supplies from the closet should approach any teacher at the school. Teachers can either let students into the closet to select the items they need or retrieve items from the closet for students. The closet holds snow boots, nonperishable foods, hygiene products and gym shorts. School supplies will soon be available.
Baldwin is accepting community donations of new or gently used clothing or new hygiene products and nonperishable food. Those who are interested in donating can drop off donations at the school office. Those who would like to learn more can contact Baldwin at 406-726-3216 ext. 2315.