Low-income students in the Tigard-Tualatin School District were the winners again this year when the Summerfield Women’s Golf Club made the Caring Closet the beneficiary of its annual charity fundraiser.
The Caring Closet was started in 1999 to provide clothing and shoes plus hygiene products and emergency bedding to low-income students in the district, some of whom are homeless. Students referred by their school counselor can visit the Caring Closet “store,” located on the Tigard High School campus, once in the fall and once in the spring to choose a week’s worth of clothes.
The Caring Closet is close to the hearts of the Summerfield golfers, who have chosen the non-profit to be their annual charity beneficiary for the past several years, and this year Sandy Brewer, chair of the fundraiser, handed Caring Closet Coordinator Kim Thoren a check for $7,000 at the club’s Aug. 22 luncheon.
The number of students served has remained steady recently, according to Thoren, with the Closet serving 1,200 to 1,300 annually, and about 200 of them are homeless.
“We want to serve more, not because there are more students who need our help but because the school counselors and staff have found more students in need,” Thoren said. “We also can help students with their needs for Outdoor School, and we can help with getting them the right shoes for certain sports.”
Thoren recalled one high school senior who came in hoping to get a tie, shirt and tux for the prom.
“He came in so humble and grateful with whatever we could give him, and I was like, ‘No, we are going to dress you right!’” she said. “People don’t realize the circumstances these kids are coming from. Some of their parents are working two jobs.”
Before handing Thoren the check, Brewer said that this year the fundraiser was on a smaller scale due to remodeling of the Summerfield Clubhouse, which prevented some of their usual activities from taking place.
“I was very surprised by how much we made,” she said.
Thoren told the golfers that the Closet constantly needs donations of new and gently used clothing plus money to purchase new underwear, socks and shoes.
When Brewer handed her the check, Thoren quickly did the math and estimated that she could buy 466 pairs of shoes. “I usually spend about $15 a pair, and we purchase good-quality shoes that will hold up,” she said. “The ladies (volunteers) at the Caring Closet will be so thrilled. People have been so generous.
“I have so many stories about the kids we have helped, but one of my first was a young lady who came in very distraught with her clothes falling off her. I would have given her anything in the store. She went into the bathroom to change into some new clothes she selected, and when she stepped out, she was completely transformed. She looked confident, and there was a bounce in her step.”
Tearing up, Thoren told the golfers, “This check means a lot to me and the ladies who volunteer at the Closet. They work so hard and love doing it. Thank you again for doing this. I am extremely grateful.”
Thoren had volunteered at the Caring Closet for four years as a family helper assisting people with choosing clothes when she became interim coordinator in January and was hired permanently in April.
“I had a pretty good feel for how the Closet operated and what its needs are,” she said. “I had developed a good relationship with the ladies I volunteered with, and now I have gotten to know all of them and how great they all are. The Caring Closet operates like a well-oiled machine, and I love doing it.”
The Caring Closet is located between the east end of Tigard High School and the Tigard Swim Center and is open for donations Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Donations by check are always welcome and may be sent to TTSD, 6960 S.W. Sandburg St., Tigard 97223, Attn: Caring Closet. All donations are tax-deductible, and the Tax ID is 93-0572833. Thoren may be contacted at [email protected] or at 503-603-1576.