Students at Shelby County High School no longer have to worry about needing a change of clothes if they are out of dress code or if they spill chocolate milk on their shirt during lunch. They simply have to walk down the hallway to the Working Wildcats Clothes Closet and pick out something to wear.
The clothes closet is a project of the Working Wildcats in Marisol Lilly’s self-contained classroom for students with special needs. On October 1, Lilly and her students joined business and community leaders to celebrate the grand opening of their new and improved clothes closet, which is housed in a former restroom previously used for storage. Thanks to support from Alabama Power Company, the space is now equipped with shelves, clothing racks, and storage containers that allow the students to organize clothing items similar to a retail clothing store.
The project first began eight years ago when a few items of formal wear were donated to assist students attending the district’s special needs prom. Soon after, other items of clothing began to be donated and Lilly seized the opportunity to help teach her Working Wildcats skills that would benefit them not only at home, but also in seeking employment opportunities.
Modeling their clothes closet setup after Earthly Treasurers Thrift Store in Columbiana, the students are honing their skills by sorting and organizing the clothing by size, color, and design. They are also learning how to determine which clothing should be kept for student use or donated to the thrift store.
The students are also responsible for washing the clothes when they are first donated, or when they are returned after being used by students who checked them out. Finally, they are learning which types of hangers to use to hang the clothes and how to display them.
In addition to clothing, the closet also has shoes, undergarments, and hygiene items. Lilly said items that are always in demand are black pants and shoes required at graduation and business attire needed for senior interviews.
The clothes closet depends on donations from the community. Lilly has developed a shopping list on Amazon for additional items that are also needed, such as laundry detergent, hangers, packaged socks and underwear, and garment bags to properly store formal wear. Purchased items can be delivered directly to Shelby County High School at 101 Washington Street, Columbiana, AL 35051