RM’s Caring Closet leaves no student coatless


Graphic by Caroline Dinh

On half days, the ESOL departments hosts the Caring Closet in room 267, which allows students to take clothing, toiletries and other essential items they need for free.

Victoria Koretsky, Features Writer

With Maryland’s unpredictable weather, kids have to be ready for any and all possibilities, rain or shine. However, not all students have the right clothes to brave the weather. At Richard Montgomery, the Caring Closet provides basic necessities to any student that needs them. The ESOL department, which runs the program, takes staff clothing and item donations. On most half days, they host a Caring Closet in room 267, where any student can come and take whatever basic items they need for free.

Ms. Jill Schuck, an ESOL teacher and the organizer of the Caring Closet, started the program when she first came to RM in 2015. Soon after she began teaching at RM, she realized that many of her students that were new to the country did not have appropriate clothing for the seasonal changes and erratic temperatures, especially during the winter. “This was just happening organically, and I started off by asking people I knew [for small donations],” Ms. Schuck said. She started to visit the store more often herself, buying things like coats, sweaters, pants and socks. “$30 at the dollar store can go a long way,” Ms. Schuck said.

Eventually, Ms. Schuck contacted another high school, which graciously donated items from their lost and found that had not been reclaimed in many months. As the program grew, other RM staff began to donate clothes, as well as other toiletries like shampoo, body wash and toothpaste. More and more students began to show a need for items, so Ms. Schuck decided to restructure the program, giving it a name and classroom.

Although many students are coming to the Caring Closet now, it was not always like that. In the beginning, Ms. Schuck held the closet after school, but she quickly realized that students had to catch their buses. When she began to hold the closet on half days, she immediately noticed a better turnout. “[The Caring Closet] is not every half day, because sometimes I have meetings when students are dismissed, but it’s usually inventory-based,” she said. However, despite the occasional conflicts, Ms. Schuck tries to hold a Caring Closet as often as she can.

The ESOL department tries to limit donations to the week before a Caring Closet, since the ESOL storage room, where the donations are kept, is not very big. However, she emphasized that students are welcome to check out the storage room anytime they need something, inventory-permitting. Although the closet was created for kids whose basic needs were not being met, Ms. Schuck emphasized that the closet is open to all students. “I do not know all the students and all of their cases…so any kid is welcome, I would never turn anyone away,” she said.

The Caring Closet has not yet taken big steps towards student donations, but Ms. Schuck says she’s hoping to change that. “I think students know what their peers want, in terms of clothes and styles. I’m thrilled and absolutely willing to get the ball rolling [on student donations],” she said. So while there may not be any drives or active processes for the Caring Closet yet, the ESOL department said they are always happy for new donations.