• PTA Clothing Closet continues to provide for PPS students

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    The PTA Clothing Closet has been helping PPS student obtain clothing and other items since 1963. (Photos by Cameron Vaughan)

    Since 1963, the PTA Clothing Closet has operated out of Portland Public Schools and is legendary among other West Coast PTAs for its organization and number of students it clothes each year.  Last year the Clothing Closet served over 1,600 students, and those numbers climb higher as families face financial crises. 

    It’s run solely by volunteers, many of whom have given their time and energy for more than 20 years. The Clothing Closet has been recognized by the City of Portland, received President Obama’s Champions of Change recognition, and is the catalyst for many other PTAs who are trying to do the same thing: clothe kids.

    The Clothing Closet is located at the Marshall High School campus (3901 SE 91st Ave.), in Room C-56, and is available for all PPS K-12 students Monday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Open from September through April, it is a place kids can pick up new or gently-used pants, tops, sweaters, shoes, socks, underwear, coats, toiletries and personal hygiene items. It’s all free.  

    “It’s not unusual for kids to come in, shop with their parent or guardian and wear their new coat or other clothing item home, which is why we ask people to send things they would want their kids to wear,” says Sharon Meigh-Chang, PTA Clothing Closet Director. “It’s a matter of pride to have clean clothing, and it is always our hope that people will send us things which can be used right away.”

    So, how does it work?  Every school has intake cards available in the main office or through school counselors. For students in grades K-8, a parent or guardian can fill out the name and sizes needed for their children and accompany them when they are ready to shop. High school students need to fill out a card as well, but can visit the Clothing Closet on their own. Students may shop twice per year, once before the winter holiday break and once after the holiday break.  

    The Clothing Closet can accommodate 60 people each day, and customers are asked to form a line outside the center and are called in by number. Once in, a student is given three pairs of new underwear and socks, a pair of pants, shoes, a coat and two shirts. Once students have these items, they can then go to the used clothing area and pick out more items to fill out their fall/winter wardrobe. This shopping time is excused by the school. 

    While the Clothing Closet always needs donations, right now it needs warm winter clothing that is new or gently used and does not need to be repaired or laundered. Clothing can be dropped off at any PPS school and needs to be in bags clearly labeled “PTA CLOTHING CLOSET.” The Center also needs water bottles, compact sleeping bags, duffel bags, mittens, small travel-sized toiletries and personal hygiene items, jackets, sweaters, pants, T-shirts, bras, underwear, socks and shoes.  

    Meigh-Chang says she is “so grateful to the many Pacific Northwest clothing and footwear companies who have donated through the years. We had a student who needed size 3XXX clothing and a size 16 shoe. It felt great to be able to take care of him.”

    Want to volunteer?  The Clothing Closet would love to have your help. To learn more please contact Sharon Meigh-Chang at 503-293-0783 or ptaclothingcenter@comcast.net

    -Cameron Vaughan