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Special School District of St. Louis County

Care Closet Helps Students in Need

What started out six years ago to help a few students who didn’t have a proper winter coat or who wore the same clothes over and over has turned into South Technical High School’s Care Closet, which provides new and used items free of charge to students in need.

There are many children who come to school improperly dressed for the weather, who are unable to access basic personal hygiene items, or who lack the necessary school supplies to effectively participate in class.

“At the beginning, when I would notice a student who needed something, I would offer them something from my gently used surplus of items that were teen-appropriate from my son and daughter,” said Carla Shaughnessy, counselor at South Tech who created the Care Closet. 

“The idea grew from there. I asked our principal if I could have some storage space in the building for student needs and he said yes,” said Shaughnessy.

Maintenance staff laid tile, painted, and added shelf paper, a large pegboard, and a full mirror. And the Care Closet was open for business.

One of Shaughnessy’s goals is to provide appropriate clothing that students can use for job interviews.

Donations for the Care Closet are driven by word of mouth. Family, friends, staff, and neighbors of South Tech may donate when they clean out closets, or they may buy some extra hygiene products to donate. 

“Some of the greatest needs we have are for deodorant, underwear, and personal hygiene items,” said Shaughnessy. She said there have been students who lost their homes in fires and got items from the closet if there was no insurance – or until the insurance money was received. 

“More often than I can count, students get kicked out of their parents’ houses and need things to get by,” said Shaughnessy. “And there are simply the kids whose parents are working super hard and there just doesn’t seem to be enough money to go around for a pair of jeans or shoes.”

The Care Closet is not something that is advertised or marketed. It is very discreet. Staff members know about the Care Closet and can refer a student for a shopping trip. 

When a student is referred, one of the counselors takes the student for his or her shopping trip. “That’s my favorite part,” said Shaughnessy. “I tell the kids, ‘All of these items have been donated, so you are free to take whatever you can use.’”

The items are sorted and labeled. Shopping bags are given to the shoppers and there’s a mirror in the room for trying on items. The counselor leaves the student to shop and shuts the door so that the student has privacy. “I tell them to take their time and to have fun,” said Shaughnessy. 

One student who visited the Care Closet told Shaughnessy that she was very appreciative of the help and she didn’t know what she would have done without it. Another student said it’s nice for kids to have the opportunity to get some help.

“Nothing makes me happier than seeing a student come bounding down the hall swinging a bag of donations,” Shaughnessy said.
Care closet at South Tech

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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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