Shirley Jones,Clothing,Donation,Dwight D. Eisenhower,Undergarment

Eisenhower staffers open The Closet to kids in need

December 17, 2016
in Kids

Security officer Shirley Jones and science teacher Vanessa Connor arrange recently donated clothes in "The Closet" at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island. The Closet is a room at the school that supplies gently used clothing, coats, shoes and underwear to students in need. (John Smierciak / Daily Southtown) Shirley Jones knows what it's like to be poor, homeless even. She knows what it's like to be forced to choose between paying the electric bill or putting food on the table. And she knows what it's like to be a teenager desperate to fly under the radar. Jones knows the struggle of poverty. She braved it as a child and as a single parent. And for some reason, kids in similar situations seem to sense that she is one of them, that she's been there, survived that, which is why they often open up to her about their own financial straits. So, when a student at Eisenhower High School didn't have a plain white shirt to wear under her basketball jersey, she came to Jones. The school security guard literally gave her the shirt off her back. When biology teacher Vanessa Connor learned of Jones's generosity, the women began to chat. "We both were noticing the same thing — kids without coats, kids wearing the same clothes day after day. We were getting a lot of the same students confiding in us," Connor said. The stories told of hunger and clothing shortages. One girl said her family could afford to go to the laundromat, but they couldn't afford the soap. Some kids would breeze by Jones's desk in the morning to see if she had anything "extra" to eat, happy to walk away with an apple or a hard-boiled egg, she said. Although many kids had after-school jobs, Connor said, they often pitched in to help pay for rent or food at home. Last spring, the teacher and the security guard made a vow to help these kids who had so little. Their promise was realized two weeks ago when they unveiled The Closet. Located in a dedicated space on the second floor of the Blue Island school, The Closet is a room where kids in need can go to get a sweater, a coat, a pair of shoes or even new underwear. It has been open for two weeks and already 15 kids have stopped by, Connor said. Teachers, colleagues and friends have donated clothing and cash to get the project...

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