All too often teachers in Halifax County Public Schools are forced to face a sad reality for many.
They form relationships with students who may not have a toothbrush, a stick of deodorant or even running water at home, according to Halifax County High School culinary arts teacher Victoria Worley.
These teachers then become a secondary caregiver to these children who become like their own.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve given my lunch to a student or my snacks, and who knows how many pencils I give out,” said Worley.
Now thanks to an idea that sprang into action after Polly Frazier with The Good Samaritan planted the seed, high school students now have the Halifax Giving Closet filled with clothes, shoes, food, school supplies, hygiene products and feminine products.
Frazier knew of a foster child in the school system who needed clothes, and that’s what triggered the idea.
Worley began researching what could be done, and she found that many similar projects at other schools have a dreary look and feel, so she decided to make this one more appealing to the eye.
With her work cut out for her, she raised $400 in donations from the public, $100 from Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital, $500 from Scotty Felton with Long and Foster, and April Hodges from Alexia’s Closet also donated several items such as a bookshelf, rug, bench and mirror.
“It gives it a more homey feeling,” said Worley, who wanted the closet to feel more welcoming and less dreadful.
She also has worked with The Good Samaritan and Serving Hope to secure food and other items for the closet.
Members of JROTC also helped arrange the room, which is located near her culinary arts classroom. Members of Family Career and Community Leaders of America also plan to help with the room.
Hodges, Felton, assistant superintendent Valdivia Hall, principal Michael Lewis, a member of the JROTC and Lisa Long, director of elementary instruction, cut the ribbon Monday morning signifying the opening of the Halifax Giving Closet, named by Felton.
In order to gain access to the closet, students will have to be referred by a principal or guidance counselor, and they will then come to the closet during Worley’s planning period.
She also has discussed opening the closet once a month after school.
With many students coming to school hungry, she also said this closet will allow students in need to come and get food for three-day weekends and holidays.
“They come back from breaks, and you know they’re hungry,” said Worley.
When thinking of food items, she also tried to keep in mind that some of these students may not even have access to a can opener, running water or a microwave. So, they tried to include some items such as fruit or granola that they can open up and eat.
As far as the clothes and shoes, she said they have a little bit of every size imaginable.
She’s had to buy clothes for students before, Worley said, so if a student runs into a situation where he or she cannot find what they need in the closet, she said there is money left over to purchase clothes.
Students, she said, should not have to focus on whether they have clothes, or clean clothes, or if they have enough food at home. She hopes this closet will relieve some of that stress.
“More often than not, when a child is defiant, there’s something going on leading them to not participate in school. This way, hopefully kids can focus on school,” said Worley, who added she hoped this would eliminate some students from getting picked on.
In addition to helping those in need, the culinary arts instructor is hoping the formation of this closet will have a domino effect.
“I hope this helps resonate with them, and they’ll want to do something for other people as well,” Worley concluded.