Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Uniform Locker Program at LCTA

I first learned of the Uniform Locker program at my daughter's local school during Kindergarten Prep orientation week. The PTA had sent a flyer to the parents in the K-Prep materials that the Uniform Locker would be open on the school playground after school pick up one afternoon that week.

I arrived to find that the PTA volunteers had set up boxes of uniform items on the picnic tables outside the school. The items were sorted by gender, size, and tops/bottoms. They also had a portable rack with a few dresses hanging on it. I, along with a few other moms, dug through the boxes. I found a few items that could supplement the items that I had already purchased for her to start the school year. They were selling gently used uniform items for $1 an item. I was happy to pay the nominal price.

I recently had a chance to interview Beverly Woolard, the social worker at Lyles Crouch Traditional Academy (LCTA) to learn more about the program. LCTA is a public school located in Alexandria, Virginia with approximately 425-450 children grades K -5. Ms. Woolard told me that the program was originally started by the PTA to assist families in need.

Rashmi Pappu is a PTA volunteer at the school and currently coordinates the program.  She also graciously took time to chat with me about the logistics of the program.  She told me that parents donate clean, gently used items throughout the year at the school office. The inventory is managed primarily by her and one other PTA volunteer.  They get together occasionally to sort through the donated items.  Based on what they already have and the condition of the items, some are passed along to other charities and only those in the best condition are kept for the locker program.  The clothes are stored in a storage room at the school.

At several points during the year, PTA volunteers advertise when the Uniform Locker will be open. They advertise through the blast email to PTA members several times at the beginning of the school year and at the beginning of each season.  They then put out a call to for additional volunteers to staff the program during the advertised times.  Items are offered for $1 a bag!  Ms. Pappu said they may make $75 a day and the money is donated back to the PTA. 

Ms. Woolard, as the school's social worker, is provided access to the locker year round. Parents can contact her at any time during the year if they are in need of uniform items for their child. She is appreciative of the special PTA fund that allows her to supplement locker items with new items primarily for students living in the local homeless shelters. She also mentioned that in the past local businesses and a church had donated new items or funds for the program. 

My daughter is already growing out of the items we got at the beginning of the school year and some have barely been worn. So we'll soon be making our first donations into the program. Many of the higher quality items can outlast our children that grow so quickly.  For financial reasons, for environmental reasons, or  simply for convenience, uniform exchange simply makes sense to me for folks of all socioeconomic backgrounds.  Ms. Pappu said that although some families donate shoes, they redonate them to other charities. Instead, they opt to purchase new shoes for families in need. I'll personally keep that in mind during my shopping or at a BOGO sale to make an additional donation to the program.

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