Room 207 at New Rochelle High School ordinarily is a classroom, filled with table and chairs, its high windows overlooking the school’s baseball field and the teacher’s parking lot.
On January 20th, it became something else – a boutique for low-income teens to access warm winter clothing for free, with racks of sweaters and sweatshirts and tables filled with jeans, joggers and leggings. The event was brought to life by The Sharing Shelf in partnership with New Rochelle High School, the City of New Rochelle and Volunteer New York!. By day’s end, 81 teens walked through the classroom doors. Each had received a golden ticket created by Maria Morris, one of the school’s social worker and part of The Sharing Shelf’s Teen Boutique planning committee, and each student took home a selection of items. In addition to clothing, each teen could select a hygiene kit filled with full-sized toiletries and girls were given access to menstrual supplies.
The Sharing Shelf is Westchester's Clothing Bank for Children founded in 2009 to combat clothing insecurity among low-income children and families in our community. Teen Boutique, one of the program’s flagship events, is a series of free shopping days for low-income girls, started in 2012. The event on January 20th was The Sharing Shelf’s first coed event.
“Our schools address hunger by offering free and reduced-price lunch, but what happens if a teen does not come to school because they do not have sufficient clean clothing?” said The Sharing Shelf’s Executive Director Deborah Blatt. “Clothing insecurity, like food insecurity, impacts the academic success of children and teens and, with this event, we, as a community, recognized it and addressed it.”
School Vice Principal Rachel Cornelius saw this firsthand. “I am so happy that we were able to partner with The Sharing Shelf to provide an uplifting experience for our students. The impact was shown through the number of students that were seen wearing the items from the Teen Boutique the very next day. This was a fulfilling experience for all involved and helping to bring this event to fruition has been a highlight of this school year for me.”
To collect the clothing and volunteers needed for the event, The Sharing Shelf linked up with the City of New Rochelle, Volunteer New York and New Rochelle FUSE. The City hosted a donation box at City Hall as did local store Mikey Dubb’s while members of FUSE collected over 50 bags of new clothing, hats, gloves and underwear.
Charles Curtis, Director of Community Engagement for the City of New Rochelle, played a key role recruiting volunteers, stated that “the City of New Rochelle is proud to once again partner with Volunteer New York! and The Sharing Shelf to provide winter warmth to teens in our community who need it. Events like this remind us of the value donating time and talent to make New Rochelle a better place.”
At day’s end last week, plans were already being discussed for the next event. The smiling faces of the teens reinforced the power of Teen Boutique and the partnership of the community to meet the basic need for clothing.