El Reno Public Schools is about one thing — the well-being of children.
Whether it be through education, health or nutrition, the administration has several items in place to ensure a safe, supportive learning environment.
A new program, the Care Closet, was recently added to provide clothing for children from grades 7 to 12. The Care Closet exists for kids from struggling families. Items include all manner of clothing, hygiene products, shoes, backpacks and laundry detergent.
Kara Todd Watts, the school’s Child Advocacy coordinator, says that providing assistance is integral to the students’ education.
“Kids learn best when they come ready,” she said. “We have to meet their basic needs before they are ready to learn.”
Watts was a counselor at Rose Witcher Elementary for close to a decade. Several years ago, she began planning the Care Closet with Brooke Robertson, Community Outreach director. Watts said there weren’t enough people to make it work back then. Certain programs were already in place for the younger students, but Watts said she felt that the secondary students were underserved.
She said that everything has finally come together for the Care Closet to exist.
“We have been extremely blessed with community support, including local businesses.”
The clothing is provided by El Reno citizens, and a grant was given by the El Reno Education Foundation. Watts said the administration saw the need for this program years ago, and the May 25 tornado demonstrated the problem even further. Many families lost everything and the need for clothing grew even larger.
“Every school district has kids who are struggling. We are figuring out how to serve kids of any kind of trauma, including trauma from the tornado.”
The Care Closet is set up at the junior high in Lucas Hall. Though it’s designed for grades 7-12, Watts said that if students of any age need help, they need only ask. She encourages kids and parents to tell a teacher or a counselor if they need food, clothing or any other kind of assistance.
“Whatever the missing thing is, we should be able to fill the gap pretty easily.”
When a parent or child asks for something from the Care Closet, they are taken there and allowed to choose from the donations. If what the students need can’t be found in the Care Closet, there are other programs available to them. These include free school supplies, Friday food bags for elementary students and a food pantry for secondary students available on Thursdays.
The Care Closet is currently asking for new or slightly used hoodies and zip jackets, as well as full-sized bottles of shampoo or conditioner.