It’s the season of giving, and the Lafayette Parish School System wants community members to donate gently used children’s school uniforms to students in need at its first coat and uniform drive Saturday.
LPSS, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., 100 Black Men of Greater Lafayette, Inc., Cintas and the Cajundome are partnering to host the drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday under the canopy at the Cajundome. Volunteers are accepting all uniform items — pants, shorts, blouses, uniform tops, sweaters and sweatshirts — as well as winter coats. The items must be gently used and in good condition.
Once collected, the items will be brought to Dr. Raphael A. Baranco Elementary and sorted into categories based on gender, clothing type and size. Then, the clothing will be sent to uniform services company Cintas, who’s volunteered to launder the uniforms and coats, 100 Black Men member Lenden Lewis said.
Donations will also be accepted at all public schools through Dec. 13, LPSS Transformation Zone Officer Tracy Hypolite said.
Once the items are cleaned, the school system plans to distribute the clothing to students at the start of the new semester in January. The distribution will focus first on schools in the district’s Transformation Zone and then will expand to the remaining schools. Hypolite said leadership teams at the zoned schools have compiled lists of students potentially in need.
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The volunteers plan to keep an inventory list they’ll compare to the established needs for distribution. If there are needs that aren’t met, the organizations will regroup to determine what else they can do to get the students the clothing they need, she said.
School board member Elroy Broussard, of District 3, said outfitting a child for school is expensive and while a child may have the necessary uniform pieces, they may be so worn or poorly fitting that they’re ineffective. Other times, families don’t have the money to replace uniform items or coats as the child experiences growth spurts during the year.
“We felt it was our duty and responsibility to step in and do as much as we possibly can to make sure our kids stay warm throughout the winter months,” Broussard said.
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of clean, well-fitting and weather appropriate clothing to a child’s success in school, Hypolite said. But when a child doesn’t have the necessary resources or is concerned about how they look and feel, it pulls their attention away from learning and makes it more difficult for the teacher to help the student achieve their potential, she said.
Filling those resource gaps requires contributions from all stakeholders, she said.
“It takes more than just the school system to be able to make sure our kids are capable, ready and acquire the skills they need to be productive citizens,” Hypolite said.
The school system is excited about Alpha Phi Alpha and 100 Black Men’s outreach, she said. The Saturday drive is the first event in a series the community groups are launching; each month the organizations plan to engage with students in several of the Transformation Zone schools.
Lewis, with 100 Black Men, said his organization seeks to lead by example and the best way to instill community service and generosity in the younger generation is to model the behaviors for them.
“We were once those little children. We were once those kids. We come from those communities. I know when I was coming up, we didn’t have those organizations that would offer that support,” Lewis said. “if we can just make it a little bit better for one kid, we’ve accomplished something.”