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Sandy Journal

Indian Hills’ Compassion Closet opens to give students hand up

Apr 03, 2022 06:34PM ● By Julie Slama

Indian Hills Middle School teacher Blythe Wilde opened Indian Hills’ Compassion Closet to help area students with food, school supplies, warm clothing and personal hygiene items. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Indian Hills Middle School teacher Blythe Wilde believes in giving students and their families a hand up when needed. In late winter she opened the Compassion Closet to those in need with items ranging from school supplies to food and personal hygiene items.

“I saw the need here,” she said. “We have 27% on free or reduced breakfast and lunch. As a special education teacher, I have students who get bused in from all over the district. We have students crying because their parents have gotten accepted for food stamps, so they’ll finally have food. I’ve had students who are homeless or sleep from car to car, couch to couch. I’ve had students who share one bedroom with siblings and a parent. When we look around, there’s not a lot of food pantries that are accessible this far east.”

Wilde may have more insight than others from her own experience. After leaving an abusive relationship, she found she needed help for herself and her family. She first asked her kids’ school, but after learning they didn’t have any aid, she eventually found help at a food pantry.

Wilde received a $1,000 grant from the school leadership team to stock the closet with shelf stable food items that are easily opened in case students may not have a can opener. They’re also available to eat without access to a microwave. They’re filled with snacks, cereal, peanut butter and jelly.

She added in personal hygiene items—toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, pads and tampons, which she acquired six cases from a Donor’s Choose grant. There are other cleaning items like dish soap and even biodegradable laundry sheets.

“Students can take this to dissolve in water and wash their clothing in a bathtub or a sink,” she said, adding that students also can arrange to use the school’s washer and drier or shower if needed.

The closet is completed with socks, winter hats, gloves and scarves as well as backpacks full of school supplies.  

Wilde hopes to find more funding to keep the shelves filled.

While the pantry had only been open a week, she already has distributed a case of applesauce, several cans of soup and beefaroni, seven boxes of cereal and five laundry sheets. However, more people are learning about the supplies, including a family who is experiencing homelessness.

“They were super excited about this concept. I’ve been getting the word out that we’re open and have items available,” she said, adding that she anticipates about 100 students will need the supplies. “We have an anonymous system in place where a student can go to the counseling center and then I will get an email with a student number, no name. I’ll fill it and take it to the counseling center and the child can pick it up.”

Wilde said teachers also can make referrals and she will even supply a granola bar or food item if a student goes without breakfast or is cold and may need a pair of socks.

She’s also willing to share with other students who may attend neighboring schools. They can email her at [email protected] or call Indian Hills for assistance. She also accepts community donations.

“I love the idea of serving not only our students that are right here, but those who may be within our community. I completely understand because I’ve been there and I’m not going to say no,” Wilde said. “I know a lot of kiddos don’t get sleep if they don’t get the nourishment. Then they can’t learn. If you don’t have your basics covered, you can’t push forward to learn because you’re so busy worrying if you’re going to have a roof over their head, or where the power is coming from, or how you’re going to eat. They have these adult concerns when they’re trying to be kids so I’m hopeful we can help them from worrying and offer them some help.”