Melissa Bell, a first-grade teacher at Riverside School in Monroe, and a 1999 Sylvania Northview graduate, started the clothes closet for needy children.
MONROE - Behind the unlocked doors of a storage room near the gymnasium in Riverside Elementary, there are bins of socks, underwear, shirts, and trousers.
The donated clothes are making a difference in the lives of some boys and girls at the school on North Roessler Street.
The "clothes closet" went into operation in September, but it actually had been several years in the making.
Melissa Bell, a first-grade teacher at the school since 2004, noticed that youngsters were coming to school in tattered clothes and wearing hooded sweatshirts way into the fall when they should have been wearing heavy coats.
With the help of other teachers and staff, the 1999 Sylvania Northview High School graduate started the clothes closet for the elementary school's needy students.
Mrs. Bell asked for help from the Parent Teacher Association of the elementary to get the program started. The association made the necessary arrangements to get bins for the closet to hold donated items.
The storage room, which housed little-used video equipment and supplies, was cleaned and swept, then organized with the bins and shelves.
"We realized that there was a real need for this for several years, but more so this year than in previous years. I thought I should do something to help," said Mrs. Bell, a Toledo resident. "The clothes closet is something that I really wanted to do."
The closet is available to teachers and staff who see that students in need of new shirts, winter boots, fresh trousers, or tennis shoes.
Boys and girls are brought to the room and given what they need. Mrs. Bell said they are told that it is a gift from the teachers of Riverside Elementary.
"We try to keep it as discreet as possible for the kids," she said.
An appeal is being made to parents of the school to donate items that they might otherwise give to charity, such as Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul, or Salvation Army.
In addition to shirts and pants, the school accepts gloves and mittens, hats, coats, winter boots, and shoes.
The school is stocking clothing items to fit children who attend the kindergarten though sixth-grade school, and appropriate sizes range from extra-small (4 and 5) to adult medium.
Mrs. Bell said teachers and staff can go to the storage room anytime with students to help them with clothing needs.
The clothes closet has gotten a steady stream of donations of gently used clothing as well as new packages of socks and underwear from staff and teachers.
"Kids grow out of their things so quickly that we are getting almost brand-new clothes," Mrs. Bell said.
Items for personal hygiene - toothpaste, tooth brushes, deodorant, combs, and brushes - also are needed.
Donations to the clothes closet can be made by calling the school at 734-265-4900.