- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Discretion is the order of the day at Mac Gives Back.

In a closet behind a classroom at MacArthur High School, shelves are lined with clothes, shoes, coats and toiletries free for the taking for any student in need.

“It’s all donations,” said Keturah Owens, who teaches business at MacArthur and is the 21st Century site coordinator. “We put boxes in all the common areas and people brought in garbage bags full of stuff.”

The “pop up shop” began last year, thanks to students who knew that some of their classmates needed things they couldn’t afford, or who had been victims of a house fire, or for some other reason lacked basic necessities. Owens said the entire effort is student-driven: They’re the ones who collect donations, organize the pop up shop, and get the word out.

One of the original group of students, LeTyler Rice, graduated last May, but the others have kept the effort going. One of them, Mariah Abdullah, a senior this year, has recruited her freshman sister, Grace Agnew.

“She just came and got me and said, ‘Come on, we’re going,’ ” said Grace, laughing.

When a student doesn’t have a uniform shirt, or forgot deodorant that morning or doesn’t have any, they can tell a teacher or come directly to Owens, who will take them to the pop up shop, which is in a corner out of the way of prying eyes to protect students’ privacy. It’s big enough that Owens can step out and students can close the door to try on clothes to find the right size, if they don’t know what theirs is, and nobody has to know.

In one case, a student had laundered her uniform shirt and it shrank so much that she was self-conscious about the tight fit. Owens knew there was a uniform-appropriate sweater in the pop up shop.

“It was a little too big, but that’s better than being self-conscious all day,” Owens said.

The rooms at MacArthur are often too hot or too cold, and if a student is cold and hasn’t brought a sweater or jacket, they can go into that room and get one. Owens said she tells them if they only need to borrow something and want to bring it back later for someone else, they can, though no one ever has.

The special-education department at the high school has a washer and dryer, and by working with them, the students can launder donations that need it, so everything is fresh.

Mariah said it takes a lot of work to keep the shelves stocked and organized, but she thinks it’s an important job.

“We need to help other people when we can,” she said.

Donations are accepted, and right now, Mariah said, the shelves are low on belts, toothbrushes and toothpaste. They could also use a broom.

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Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/2fy6Kok

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Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

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