NEW PALESTINE, Ind. (WTHR) — In every school district in the state, there are parents who can't afford to buy new clothes for their kids. One teacher in New Palestine realized this and decided to help these families.
Believe it or not, nearly 50 students in the community school corporation of Southern Hancock County are homeless. Out of the 3,700 students in the district, 840 qualify for free and reduced meals. That's about 22 percent.
"We have some students who come to us with nothing," said New Palestine Elementary principal Katy Eastes. "They don’t have clothes. They don’t have a backpack or school supplies, and we’re not ok with that."
First grade teacher Stacy Bancroft definitely isn't okay with this, so she talked to her husband, Kip, about the possibility of filling a closet for every child.
“We launched Stacy’s Sharing Closet," said Kip Bancroft.
Together with the help of their two grown kids, they transformed an old broom closet off of the cafeteria into a place where parents can shop with their kids for free.
“The clothing is brand new and gently used," said Kip. "Probably 10 percent of it still has tags on it.”
"We put it in a nice shopping bag and off they go," said Stacy.
Stacy's first sharing closet opened its doors last January. Since then, they created two more, one at Sugar Creek Elementary and another one at New Pal Junior High. Stacy says, so far, they've helped 38 families, 70 kids and have given out almost 700 pieces of clothing.
"It gives you all the feels," said Stacy.
"It just gives a great deal of dignity to a family in need for them to be able to come in and shop from these shelves," said Katy.
And it's not just for students who go to Southern Hancock County schools.
"They have yet to turn anyone away," said Katy.
While the shopping experience is private, Stacy's Sharing Closet is making a noticeable difference.
"I see them smiling in the hallways and just being able to be kids, and that’s what we want," said Katy.
"You want to fill your time with meaningful things, and this has been just very meaningful for us," said Stacy.
Stacy and Kip say it's been a true labor of love.
"With everything that goes on with education today, this is just my heart, and I think Kip feels the same way," said Stacy. "So if I could do this all the time and still be in the classroom and be effective, our hearts are full."
In addition to Stacy's Sharing Closet, New Pal Junior High also has "The Giving Closet." A woman named Amanda Schwyn started it, and it provides food and toiletries.