In what was once a small book closet tucked into a hallway at Walker High School, a group of teachers and students created the “We Care” pantry filled with items like shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash, snacks and uniforms that kids in need might be too shy to ask for or buy for themselves.

Baking and pastry instructor Katelyn Easlick and librarian Tessi Meaux cleared out the old closet at the start of the school year to make room for donations, of which there have been many.

“I’m seeing a lot of kids lately who just need that extra help and as a community we’re here to help them, to make sure they have everything they need,” Easlick said. “It’s the basic necessities to start their day off right because if you have mouthwash or toothpaste your day is going to be better and you’re going to feel good about yourself.”

There are tubs full of snacks like chips, tuna tins and crackers, and piles of uniforms in different sizes. A hair salon recently donated a box of name-brand hair care products and both parents and students have stocked the shelves with feminine hygiene products, glue, pencils, backpacks, lunchboxes, deodorant and other items.

Seniors Kataj Darden and Anthony David, both of whom Easlick said were instrumental in creating the pantry, fielded another few boxes of supplies on a recent Friday morning. They’ll sort and inventory the items so the teachers can keep track of what’s there, and they plan to install rods in the pantry to hang the uniforms by size for easy assembly.

“I’ve just always liked helping people,” David said, “and this is a good way to do it.”

Principal Jason St. Pierre said discretion was important in putting the pantry into action, as there may be some hesitance to use the service otherwise. So, in order for a student to receive items from the pantry, they approach Easlick, Meaux or another adult in the school and ask for a form in which they indicate what items they need.

The student volunteers or teachers will package the listed items in a plain black drawstring bag for the student to pick up or have delivered to their classroom, so it doesn’t look out-of-place with other book bags.

“It’s easier sometimes when more people are asking for something so the kids … will really band together, so someone might say ‘I need a pencil or something too’ and that helps the other child not feel bad for asking,” Easlick said.

The organizers hope to expand the pantry to include more substantial food items for kids who don’t have healthy and filling meals available at home. Easlick said the school is taking donations through its main office during school hours.

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