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Care Closet Back In Business
Defunct for the past couple of years, the 'Care Closet' at Escalon High School is now back in operation, helping meet some emergency needs of local students.

Taking on the task is Nancy Bravard, who has been an English teacher at the high school for 10 years but this year also expanded her duties to include a Consumer Studies class - previously known as Home Economics- and is using space in her classroom for the project. She is in Room 3 at Escalon High School, in the first hall, and has a couple of large storage cabinets in the classroom and some shelves in a back room set aside for items in the closet.

"Historically the Care Closet had used clothing, food, personal hygiene items," Bravard said. "Kelly Bowers ran it and when I knew I was moving in here (Room 3), I volunteered to take it over."

Bowers no longer works at the school and Bravard is in the process of re-stocking the shelves to offer items to those in need.

Counselor Alina James has been part of the effort all along and said even when the 'closet' itself was closed, there was still assistance offered as needed, with some funds available for students and their families.

"The food part of it was down," James explained. "We always had some money so when kids couldn't afford PE clothes we could get them or sometimes we've bought gas for people."

Occasionally it has even meant the purchase of a graduation cap and tassel for a student that might not otherwise have it, she said.

Key Club has been a supporter of the effort as well, giving money to the Care Closet program as they have had it available.

"We want to keep it simple," James added of having food and clothing on hand.

Students in need can go to Bravard and James and explain their situation, whether they need a sweatshirt for the chilly weather ahead or something quick and easy to heat up for dinner.

Bravard said she is focusing primarily on needs of teens, those on campus that might need a little assistance.

"We've had a lot of requests for school supplies," she said, noting that some kids needed graph paper for math and were able to obtain it through the Care Closet when they didn't have sufficient funds to go buy it themselves.

"In the past three weeks I've had students that are homeless because of the mortgage crisis come in looking for sweatshirts," she added.

Backpacks are also kept on hand and Bravard and James both said financial donations are welcome, so the stock they have can be expanded.

And while the closet used to accept used clothing, Bravard said now they are looking to purchase new items, keeping an eye out for sales and overstocks to get a good price.

"We're not accepting used, not only because of the health regulations but also to give them (teens) something new," she said of making the change.

James agreed that they want to streamline the service and accepting only new items will help meet that objective.

A recent beneficiary of the program was a family that included a teen and two smaller children, with the mother able to come in and find some items for everyone.

Soap, lotion, personal hygiene items, notebooks, chili, macaroni and cheese, graph paper, backpacks, all are available now, with more to come.

"I want to get some Christmas stuff, decorations, and in the past, they've had presents so students can pick up presents for younger kids in the family," Bravard said.

Eventually, once Bravard has the Care Closet program fully up and running, she wants the Consumer Studies class to take over the responsibility of overseeing the program, running the "business aspect" of it as part of their curriculum, determining how to use the budget wisely to keep the shelves stocked.

"It is working out really well with it being in my classroom," Bravard added.

Her mother has been a generous donor over the past several months, she said, but now they are looking for community support, whether it's from private donations or service clubs such as the Lions, Kiwanis or Rotary, just to name a few.

Anyone that wants more information about what the Care Closet needs can contact James or Bravard at the school, 838-7073. Bravard also can be reached by e-mail, and James said any monetary donations can be made to EHS Care Fund, 1528 Yosemite Ave., Escalon, CA 95320.

"Kids come in, see me, tell me what they need and we see what we can do," James said, noting that all counselors and front office staff are aware of the program and will direct students in need to the closet.

"Financial donations are best," James added, "but if people want to go buy something specific, just call to see what the need is."

Both women agreed that times are tight, so it may be tough for people to give, but they said every little bit will help and it will all go to a good cause.

"We're trying to restore it," Bravard said of the Care Closet effort, "a little bit at a time."