On the corner of Main and D Streets in Hamilton, tucked upstairs in what was once Patty’s Bridal, volunteers spend hours sorting and organizing huge piles of donated clothes. One volunteer tells a story about a little boy who received a pair of donated khaki shorts, the kind you’ll see in every store this spring. When he saw the shorts, he hugged them to his chest and cried. He had never owned a pair of shorts like this before. The Caring Closet may be hidden with a discreet D Street entrance, but it has a powerful presence here in Hamilton.

The Caring Closet began in a local resident’s basement back in 2010. Within a year, they had out-grown the small space. In October 2012, they set up shop in their current home on D Street. And the Caring Closet is truly a labor of love. The operation is volunteer-run and supported only through fund-raisers and donations from community members and organizations. Volunteers collect gently used clothes and shoes, along with new packages of underwear, socks and toiletries. All of these items are pulled together in a box which is discretely delivered to students in need.

Serving a Community of Students

The Caring Closet is dedicated to helping students who attend Hamilton City Schools. Teachers within the district refer students in need over a secure network. Privacy and confidentiality are important. Positive self-esteem can have a huge impact on children. The Caring Closet can help achieve that by providing behind-the scenes help, clothing and basic necessities.

The continuing support of the community is equally important to the Caring Closet’s success. Within the last year, the Hamilton Community Foundation generously provided additional funding to the Caring Closet. Previously, only children from kindergarten to sixth grade could receive boxes. During the 2016-2017 school year, the Caring Closet provided 520 boxes to students. With the increased funding from the Community Foundation, they’ve started to also serve students from seventh to twelfth grade. Because of this, they’ve already been able to provide nearly 600 boxes so far this school year. Each box includes toiletries and two weeks-worth of clothing.

In addition to donations, the Caring Closet relies on community fundraisers. The annual “Witches Night Out” event is a fun pub-crawl around Hamilton, and proceeds go to the Caring Closet. Schools within the Hamilton City School District hold “Socktober” celebrations, and classes collect new packages of socks during the month of October. And the Caring Closet recently received a $5,000 youth philanthropy grant. While the community generously donates many clothes, sometimes they just don’t have what they need. These fundraisers and grants help to provide those needed items: a winter coat in a size they don’t have in stock, jeans for boys, which they never seem to have enough of, or new packages of socks and underwear, something they always need.

How You Can Help

You can drop off donations at a convenient, locked donation box on the porch of their entrance on D Street. The Caring Closet accepts all sizes from 4T to Adult 2X, and asks for thoughtful donations. Providing clothes you’d choose for your own children is a good rule of thumb. There are some items that are always in-demand. They always need new, full-size toiletries, including shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, body wash, bar soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Jeans for boys sizes 6 through 10 is something they never have enough of – boys tend to be rough on the knees! And, of course, new packages of underwear and socks are always needed.

“We have an active and strong board,” says Joni Copas, President of the Caring Closet Board and Director of Communications for the Hamilton City School District. “But we couldn’t do it without the community.” Some students, she tells us, have birthday parties and ask their guests to bring donations for the Caring Closet instead of gifts. We shouldn’t be surprised by this type of generosity in Hamilton, but right now, we have something in our eyes…