One day in class Hillsboro teacher Josh Pohlman noticed one of his student’s shoes had holes in them. He also knew the student would be standing outside in the cold waiting for a school bus.
“We talked a little bit and he happened to wear the same size as me — I had some old ones that were in pretty good shape — and I asked him if he wanted them,” Pohlman said. “He was tickled to get them.”
After seeing the large impact a small gesture can have, he started bringing a few shirts to class to give away. They disappeared almost as quick as he offered them. Before long he was asking family members for clothes they were going to donate somwhere, and more recently staff members have caught on and started donating items.
As fall turned to winter last school year, Pohlman estimated he gave away 55 to 60 hoodies and 35 to 40 coats in a couple weeks.
“Because too many kids don’t have thick enough clothes to stand outside at the bus stop,” Pohlman said. “It’s just to help their time at high school be good, so they’re not worried about what kids say if they wear to the same thing to school every day or things like that.”
Last year, Pohlman said, he got to thinking that if he kids needs clothes, they probably need things like deodorant and tooth brushes, too. So hygiene items are also being collected.
What started six years ago has exploded more recently, with the school dedicating a room to the project called the Supply Closet. Some clothes hang on wracks and others are sorted according to size.
“It’s just kind of on the honor system. They can take what they need and there’s a restroom nearby where they can try stuff on. No questions are asked,” said Pohlman, who teaches metal and wood working at the high school.
Currently, the program is primarily for high school students. But Pohlman said some junior high students recently visited the Supply Closet, and that he’d like to see the program expand to be able to help middle school students, too.
Since the program started, Pohlman estimated 500 T-shirts of all sizes for both males and females, plus 100 coats, armloads of hoodies, and other items like jeans, boots and shoes have been given away.
Angie Juillerat, a receptionist at the the school, said that the program has exploded recently, along with the need for it.
“The more stuff that’s there, I think the more comfortable the kids will be in taking it,” Pohlman said. “Maybe if there were just a few things kids would be kind of hesitant to take things, and I don’t want that. If they need it, I want them to feel comfortable taking it.”
The school is accepting items like used, clean clothing; shoes; coats; brushes; combs; deodorant; shampoo; soap; tooth paste; tooth brushes; etc. Clothes hangers are also needed. Students can bring donations in, or the public can drop them off at the high school office from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Items can also be dropped off at The Times-Gazette, 108 Gov. Trimble Place, Hillsboro, and they will be delivered to the school.
Pohlman said the program is not looking for brand name or designer clothes, but it would like donated clothing to be nice.
“Anything is definitely appreciated, and all of it is helpful. We’re just happy we can supply stuff here at the school, and that the community is helping,” Pohlman said. “Times are tough sometimes and if kids can get some clothes here to help them out, that’s what it’s all about.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.