FAIRBORN — Baker Middle School continues to offer students the ability to partake in its Hawks’ Closet pantry of donated goods every Thursday during its three separate grade-based lunch periods.
Having been launched as schoolwide program in fall 2018, the approximately 8-by-8 space is set aside in an otherwise unused classroom across from the school cafeteria. This allows students the convenience of stopping into the Hawks’ Closet — typically no more than four at a time — for perusal and retrieval of items the students and families of students could use back home.
“With Hawks’ Closet in its fifth year now, students are encouraged to come and ‘shop’ for what they might want or need,” Food Service Supervisor/Director of Fairborn City Schools Kathleen Housman said. “Everything in the shop is free for Baker Middle School students, they can get as much as they can carry home in bags,. Usually kids take with them a bag or so of items, normally no more than three.”
Items in the Hawks’ Closet include shelf-stable food products. Such products are: Snack items like individualized chips or granola bars, nuts, and ramen noodles.
“Those are pretty popular,” observed said.
Other items in the Hawks’ Closet include: Hygiene products such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, deoderent, bars of soap; limited school supplies such as pencils and pencils; and some clothing. Housman said that gloves, hats, and other winter clothing are especially needed and popular during this cold season.
Bags themselves are donated by members of the community and are normally those from the grocery store. Students choose their items, bag them, and then allow for the pantry’s volunteer Robin Rathke to take them to the main office after being marked with each student’s initials. The student then picks up the bags on the way home from school, be it toward the bus or other transportation.
Since many of the donate items come from area religious organizations, Housman remarked that she was especially delighted to see students bringing back to their houses blankets made by a group of women who organized at their church.
Housman said that there was some minor concern at first that students may be nervous about utilizing the Hawks’ Closet.
“We were a little worried kids might feel uncomfortable getting free things to bring back home, but the numbers coming in every week have gone up since last year. We’re also proud of the fact that many of our students, especially the girls, are accompanied by friends who might not need to pick up anything but come as moral support or to assist with selection and bagging.”
The students picking up items themselves appear to Housman to be especially thoughtful about how they navigate the Hawks’ Closet.
“We never have to worry about kids taking more than what they may need or abusing the services here,” she said. “In fact, I’ll overhear something like a student saying she knows her family is having spaghetti that night for dinner, so she’ll grab a jar of spaghetti sauce to help out. Our students aren’t just getting things for themselves, but knowingly getting things to help out their entire family back home. To have a middle schooler say and think something like that is what this is all about.”