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Phil Campbell holds backpack drive, restocks school’s community closet

Not long after Tina King, PCHS JAG teacher, posted a summer call for donations of school supplies, toiletry items and clothing to restock the school’s community closet, one of the members reached out to her with an idea for the seniors.

“Since it would be our last first day of school,” said Kameron Barnard, “I thought it would be fun to remember what it was like on our first day of kindergarten and buy character backpacks we would have wanted back then and take pictures, enjoy the flashback and then donate the backpacks to the students at Phil Campbell Elementary.”

Barnard said while she used to get a new backpack every year before school started back, she knows not everyone is as fortunate, noting some students would likely have to keep using the same backpack even if it broke partway through the year.

The backpack collection and community closet are service projects started by the students of JAG – Jobs for Alabama’s Graduates, an organization King said is “a school-to-work transition program aimed at promoting character, leadership and career preparedness.”

Although JAG started the projects, other students, faculty and members of the community contribute by donating items and spending time organizing and doing other tasks in support of what’s needed.

“The community closet is beneficial because a lot of people aren’t always able to afford to buy what they need for back-to-school supplies, toiletries or business-appropriate clothes for a conference or job interview,” said senior JAG member Ruby Torres. “Students that need different clothing due to a dress code violation or a spill have the option of looking for something, too. We like to stock items like shampoo, soap, body wash, shoes – any basic thing someone might need.”

King added the clothing donations JAG accepts must be new or gently used because they want to provide options that are of good quality.

Torres said around prom time, dresses were donated in an effort to try to make sure everyone who wanted one would be able to have one. Care was taken to prevent students from knowing which dresses came from the community closet, in case anyone might not want people to know where they got their dress.

“We’re in the process of reorganizing and moving the community closet to a bigger and better space,” said senior JAG member Alayna Pounders. “It’s well-used by the students, and we’re pleased to see it helping so many people.

“We go through and weed out clothes that are too dated or not age-appropriate. We all volunteer time keeping things organized and clean.”

“Discretion is important,” added King. “It’s confidential. We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable about using the community closet. A student can even email a teacher or speak with a counselor or teacher privately if they want to.”

While the program is primarily for the students of Phil Campbell High School, there are times, such as with the backpack drive, that items are directed elsewhere, such as to the elementary school.

“I’m really happy to see our fellow students and other people from our area working together consistently to keep the community closet running and well-supplied,” said senior JAG member Davona Dodge.

Those interested in donating to the community closet can contact King by phone at 256-331-2150 or email at tinaking@franklin.k12.al.us or through the JAG Facebook page, www.facebook.com/philcampbelljag.

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