Portland clothing closet warms PPS families


Hadley Steele

Supervisor Susan Samojlovski and parent volunteer Vanessa Kinyon working hard at the clothing closet.

Every Monday and Thursday at Marshall High School, a staff of volunteers set up and run a Clothing Closet for nearly 60 families a day who belong to the PPS community. Anyone in PPS can utilize the services they provide without excuse.

“We are based on need, and that need has increased over the years as the economy has worsened,” says supervisor Sharon Meigh-Chang. “If you need us, we are here for you.”

Since 1964, the PPS Clothing Closet has been supporting families in need of a heartwarming and supportive environment. Over the past decade, however, the visibility of the closet has decreased. The lack of visibility that the Closet currently receives makes it difficult for families to be aware of the services it provides that could help them succeed. 

“I think for us one of the things we need to work on is getting information out to schools. There’s a turnover of school admin so information doesn’t get passed down as well,” says Meigh-Chang.

Four divided rooms located in room C-56 are lined from wall to wall with coats, jeans, socks, and other warm layers available to any students that need them. When “shopping” at the Closet, each person can have a certain number of each item based on how new the item is and how many the Closet has in stock. Families can return every six months to replenish their clothes and prepare for winter or summer. 

Clients are matched with a volunteer that individually helps each person find clothes that are in good condition and fit them correctly. Volunteers are assigned from each school. Some schools send two volunteer representatives, while some send closer to ten. Volunteer attendance can range anywhere from four to twenty, making the predictability of staff hard to count on.

“Everyone on the staff is a volunteer, including myself,” said Meigh-Chang. “Today we have easily 18 volunteers. Some days we have five; we don’t like those days.”

This resource has helped to take the weight of buying clothes off of thousands of families. By relieving some anxiety caused by what they wear to school, students can focus more on academics, extracurriculars and everyday obstacles. 

For some families, the Closet is one of their main support systems while enrolled at school.

“We have clients who have been coming since kindergarten and are now high school students,” said Meigh-Chang. “Some come back as volunteers or bring their kids years later.”

All of the donations that the Closet receives go directly into purchasing socks, jeans, underwear and bras, which have the highest demand and the least frequent donations. Thanks to government grants and single party donations, the Closet has been able to continue helping thousands of students each year. 

Students and families at any PPS school can learn about how the closet is there for them in the main office of their school. There is no entrance fee and its resources are welcome to any family in need of support.