FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – From shoes to coats and the clothes in-between, the Fort Wayne Community Schools clothing bank supports students in need so they can focus on their studies.
“Sometimes it’s just as simple as having hygiene items or having new clothes for school, clean clothes, or shoes. And that’s one less stressor for the family,” Christian Perez Mora, FWCS’s Families in Transition Program Coordinator, said.
Perez Mora also runs the district’s clothing bank. She said about 70 percent of FWCS families are under the poverty line. In the last six months, the clothing bank handed out 1,500 orders to students. Each order has five outfits which are bagged up to be discreetly delivered to the student’s school.
“A lot of our families experience situations where they have to flee if they’re in a house fire or domestic violence situation and they’re not thinking about, ‘Oh, let me get my clothes first,'” she said.
Perez Mora said right now, around 1,200 FWCS students are considered homeless – living in shelters or hotels.
“There’s that fear of, ‘Is my student going to be able to stay in this school because I was evicted or now that I’m in a homeless shelter’ and they absolutely can,” she said. “Most of my students move about ten times a year, so if we have to require a homeless family to change schools that many times their education would be greatly impacted in a negative way. So, our goal is to try to help remove those barriers.”
Of those 1,200 homeless students, around 70 are unaccompanied youth because they’re also not living with someone who is their legal guardian.
“We’ve had quite a few students who are sleeping in their cars or couch-surfing and a lot of them don’t realize they qualify for resources. We can help them get to school, get transportation, get food, clothing and those kinds of things,” Perez Mora said.
Keeping them in class and cultivating confidence through clothes, is Perez Mora’s mission.
“It’s hard to focus on school and their math problems when they don’t know where they’re going to lay their head at night, so my job is to make sure I can take some of that stress from their everyday lives so they have one less thing to worry about,” Perez Mora said.
The clothing bank has sizes from baby to 4X so it’s ready to help not just students, but their families too. The bank will also help the families get started with other assistance organizations in Fort Wayne.
“To be able to see the reaction of kids or the sigh of relief of mom who just says, ‘Oh my gosh. I can focus on something else.’ It makes my job worth it every single day,” Perez Mora.
Helping hundreds of students every year depends on the community and volunteers helping the cause.
“The beauty of this clothing bank is they can really change the life of a child,” Kristina Adams said.
Adams is one of those volunteers. She’s been collecting clothes to donate to the clothing bank for the last two years.
“I blasted it out on my social media and told my friends to tell their friends and they told their aunts and uncles and their friends and their bosses and the whole world and it just kind of spiraled and people started dropping off collections to either my house or my office,” Adams said.
During the school year, her garage is full of boxes and bags. She brings a vehicle-full of donations once a month.
“My kids are growing every two to three months and what do I do with those clothes? Bring them here help another kid feel good. Help another kids be able to learn and get a full day of education,” Adams said.
Helping students and their families during a difficult time hits close to home for Adams.
“A couple years ago I went through a really rough patch and my kids were treated differently because of my unfortunate situation. When I went through that patch, I knew I wanted to give back and this was a great way to serve my community and give back to children who might feel the same way my kids did because they can’t control their parents situations,” Adams said.
Paying it forward and helping the next generation know they aren’t alone – even through their lowest points.
Large donations can be brought to the main clothing bank at 1511 Catawba Street by appointment. For smaller donations, there are donation drop boxes outside the Catalpa Street location and at the FWCS Family Community Engagement Center at 230 E. Douglas Street.
Donated clothes should be in current style, in good condition and clean. Used undergarments and socks can’t be accepted. There is a need for new underwear, socks and toiletries. The clothing bank will also use monetary donations to buy those items to supplement donations.
Monetary donations can be made through a link on the FWCS website.
Students and families who need help should contact their school’s counselor to fill out the enrollment forms.