Were you aware of the fact that approximately 35,000 of Maine’s children are impoverished? A recent Kids Count survey taken in 2018 revealed that up to 14 percent of Maine’s youngest are living in poverty.
A current trend, both state and nationwide, is to distribute essential items to needy students through in-school ‘Care Closets.’ Knowing that Lawrence High School (SAD 49) has such a program, I set out to discover the ins and outs of what they call The Bulldog Closet.
The Bulldog Closet was originally started by Beverly Poissonier during the fall of 2011. These days, Sarah Hebert, who teaches high school English, including KVCC Dual Enrollment courses, manages The Bulldog Closet along with fellow teacher Katherine Wood, the school’s JMG specialist. From its inception, The Closet’s purpose has been to provide donation-funded school supplies to all Lawrence Junior High and High School students who need them.
Traditional charity program rules typically have tight restrictions, so I was surprised to learn that The Bulldog Closet is open to the entire student body during set hours each school day and as further needed with school personnel supervision. Recipients of The Bulldog Closet are instead encouraged to reciprocate.
“We try to teach our students that it is not necessarily about the need, but more of a pay it forward program,” Mrs. Hebert said. “We all have clothes and shoes in our closets that we don’t wear anymore, but are practically still new. If a student sees something they like, they can take it no questions.”
The program’s give and take philosophy extends to their annual Pay It Forward Prom Exchange: junior high and high school students swap their old prom attire with other items (if applicable) for an updated prom style.
In addition to the in-session school closet program, last summer The Bulldog Closet launched a back-to-school program for children of all ages to provide clothing and school supplies. That first event was able to service over 200 families.
For those that would like to help students The Bulldog Closet serves, they have a general need for new or lightly worn clothing (excluding used underwear and socks) including prom dress attire. Items for donation can be delivered to the SAD 49 high school office.
When considering the appropriateness of particular clothing items to donate, Hebert suggests that donors keep in mind “the age level and the dress code” of the school. Here’s a list of personal care items that they can utilize: deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body wash etc., notebooks, pens and pencils, binders and backpacks. For a specific list of their current needs, visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/LawrenceBulldogCloset/.
Monetary contributions, in the form of checks made out to Lawrence High School, will be used for funding special events, such as their annual Back to School Pay It Forward and Prom Exchange events or as needed for specific student needs. Please Include “Bulldog Closet” in the memo line.
I asked Hebert if there was anything else she would like the public to know in regards to The Bulldog Closet. She stated, “The public should know that we greatly appreciate them and all of their efforts over the years. Our students are very lucky to have had so many caring individuals looking out for them.”
The Bulldog Closet’s pay it forward philosophy can serve as a model for all of us Mainers.