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KIND gesture goes a long way for students

| Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

Families in the Derry Area School District have the opportunity to shop for warm clothes during the holidays, even if they don't have the means.

An open house of the Kids in Need in Derry closet sponsored by the high school KIND committee will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in the high school lobby, featuring a festive atmosphere with light refreshments and Christmas music.

“Whatever they see they feel they would like, they can wear,” said sponsor Dave McCleary, a learning support teacher.

Each school in the district has a KIND committee that runs similar closets and lends a hand with other incidental fees such as field trip costs, vo-tech boots or caps and gowns.

“We have kids who have a lot of needs they can't financially meet,” McCleary said.

The “closet” started out collecting winter coats, then expanded to gym clothes and swimsuits for physical education classes, and now carries just about any kind of clothing item.

“Shoppers” can even use donated department store bags to make the browsing more authentic.

Senior Ashley Jordan, 17, of Derry Township has helped to sort through gently used donated clothes with other students, organize the closet and write thank-yous to donors since it began her freshman year.

Holding the open house close to Christmas could provide families some relief in paying for the necessity of clothing in order to save money for childrens' gifts, she said.

“Maybe that will alleviate some costs so they'll have a better Christmas,” Jordan said.

McCleary said community members and churches give monetary and clothing donations, including the Latrobe United Presbyterian Church, which he attends.

Dottie Stahl, a member of the church's worship committee, said she always has a good response when she asks the congregation once or twice a year for donations. “People just donate out of the kindness of their hearts for other people,” Stahl said. “It's a way to reach out to the community.”

Even if the closet can't use certain items, the KIND committee tries to pass it along to another good cause, such as the Union Mission in Latrobe, McCleary said.

“Anything we can't use or don't use, we always make sure it gets donated ... everything is distributed one way or another,” he said.

The KIND committee this year has about six to eight people, down from about 20 last year, because of schedule changes that eliminated morning homeroom, McCleary said.

At other times during the year, students can ask guidance counselors or administrators for permission to “shop” in the closet during or after school.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or