For three years, Seymour Middle School has conducted two clothing drives — one in the fall and one in the spring.
Each time, the goal is to collect 5,000 articles of clothing to donate to the Jackson County Clothing Center in Seymour.
The fall drive fell short of that goal last year. But this year, the goal was exceeded, collecting 5,942 articles of lightly used clothing.
The items will be given to the Jackson County Clothing Center, a nonprofit organization started in 1982 as a means to provide clothing and small household items for people in need.
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Though the clothing center, at 207 N. Pine St., Seymour, will start requiring an identification card, there are no other requirements than filling out paperwork.
“Otherwise, they just need to come in and say they need help,” center director Joan Roth said.
The clothing collection started in 1991 as a coat drive for students without coats. But three years ago, teacher Chris Kleber became the leader of the program and took it in a different direction.
The recent drive, which ran from Oct. 26 to Nov. 6, tried specifically to collect winter coats, pants, long-sleeve shirts, gloves and scarves, which will be given to about 300 families a month in Jackson County.
Roth said donations, especially those from teens, are incredibly important.
“(The clothing drive) is fantastic,” she said. “We get a lot of teenage clothes, which we need, and they are often name-brand and school uniforms.”
Seventh-grader Levi Croquart collected 210 items, the most in his grade.
“People wouldn’t ask if they didn’t need things,” he said. “I think it shows a lot of kindness. I like the feeling I get inside knowing I helped.”
Levi said he collected most of his clothes from his immediate family.
Eighth-grader Carlee Robinson had a similar experience.
“Some people gave me some of them, and my family gave them, too,” she said.
“People have these items in their closets,” Kleber added. “If it has been a year since you wore them, you’re probably not going to wear them again.”
Kleber said the clothing drive taught students the meaning of giving and altruism, focusing on others instead of oneself.
“In our culture of self-focus, it is a way to place others above self,” he said. “We have a way to help people meet their basic needs and to make a difference.”
To motivate students to collect more, rewards were offered both individually and as prides or class groups. The top pride in each grade level received a pizza party.
Along with Levi leading the seventh grade with 210 items, Carlee was the top eighth-grade collector with 540 articles of clothing, and Zoie Hoene led sixth-graders with 138 items. Each earned 50 Owl Bucks, which are used in the school’s shop.
Students who collect more than 75 items for the fall and spring drives will earn a movie event April 29.
Also, since the student body collected more than 5,000 winter items, students earned a dress-down day.
The school’s spring drive will be April 4-15 and will focus on spring and summer clothing items, including T-shirts, shorts and lightweight jackets.
Roth said donations of clothing are always appreciated, and the clothing center will continue to need them.
“I truly don’t know how some of these families with so many children could survive with the cost of clothes today,” she said.
Last year alone, the clothing center gave away nearly 68,000 articles of clothing to families in the community, she said. The articles are arranged as an allotment for each family based on the number of individuals in the family. For instance, this winter, an individual would be allocated 10 pants, 16 tops and a warm winter coat.
This year, the center added more than 700 families and removed 400 from their clientele, and the donations go a long way to help, Roth said.
In addition to clothes, the center needs volunteers.
“Even if it’s just for an hour,” Roth said.
Seymour Middle School fall/winter clothing drive top collectors
Eighth grade: Carlee Robinson, 540 items
Seventh grade: Levi Croquart, 210 items
Sixth grade: Zoie Hoene, 138 items