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Northside ISD creates free clothing closet for students in need

Students in Northside ISD still have a couple weeks left of summer, but the district is working to make sure everyone looks, and feels, ready for the new school year.

Showing up to school in hand-me-down clothing isn't a bad thing, but it's not always ideal.

Ishimara Gonzalez has worked in the district for more than 20 years. She's seen many kids show up to class wearing clothes that don't fit quite right.

"I see a lot of, 'older brother handing down to the younger brother' clothing," she said. "They're extra big - two or three times bigger - so they put the belt on and the pants are all baggy and wrinkled up at the waist."

This is how she came up with Northside Threads, a collection of clothing for students who need new outfits, but aren't able to afford them.

"That will help on their self-esteem," Gonzalez said. "That will help them concentrate on school and not worry about, 'ok, I don't have shoes like everyone else in the classroom. I do have something, and I can fit in.'"

On August 21, this free clothing closet will open to NISD students in need. Any kid who receives a referral through their campus counselor can choose five outfits from the racks - meaning they have something for every day of the school week.

"If you got a family of three that comes into this clothes closet to shop, that's 15 tops, bottoms, undies, and socks that just walked out," explains program director Yolanda Chapman.

Chapman has worked with dedicated volunteers since early 2018 to create the closet from scratch. She spends up to 80 hours a week sorting, cleaning, and tagging garments for kids she's never even met.

Creating a shopping environment is so important to her, she says, because she is a second-hand clothing shopper - and a mother - herself. Showing up to school feeling confident can help students excel in the classroom.

"We want to have this taken care of because we want students to be comfortable on the inside out, so they can focus on getting a great education," she explained.

It's not just the children who will benefit from the closet. Northside Threads expect the parents will, too.

Gonzalez says she hopes that single parents or parents working more than one job will have one less thing to worry about when paying the bills.

Northside Threads will accept donations all year long. To donate or volunteer, you can visit the Northside Family Distribution Center.