From a closet to an operations center: Princeton Closet grows to fill needs of students

The Princeton Closet provides necessities to Princeton Schools students and their families so students can focus on learning. (WKRC)
 
 
 
The Princeton Closet provides necessities to Princeton Schools students and their families so students can focus on learning. (WKRC)
The Princeton Closet provides necessities to Princeton Schools students and their families so students can focus on learning. (WKRC)
 
 
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The Princeton Closet provides necessities to Princeton Schools students and their families so students can focus on learning. (WKRC)
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SHARONVILLE, Ohio (WKRC) – At the Princeton Closet, the saying goes: A child can’t learn if they’re cold, if they’re hungry and if they’re without supplies.

“So the closet has all that,” said Susan Wyder, the creator of the Princeton Closet.

The Princeton Closet is actually a warehouse filled by the former teacher, who saw a need she couldn't fill with books and homework assignments.

“I began to see the needs growing,” Wyder said.

The need is for everyday items. In Princeton City Schools, 69% of the population lives in poverty.

“We say that the need is real, the need is great and the need is deep,” Tom Burton, Princeton’s superintendent, said.

First, Wyder asked for space to provide items to those in need. That space turned into one room, then two rooms and now, coats, shoes, blankets, food and other essentials are stored inside the ever-growing space, which is connected to the district's bus depot.

“So the bus drivers come back every morning and tell me what the kids on their bus need,” Wyder said. “If they need coats, if they need socks.”

“We will fill the order and I’m able to easily take it to them once I start my route and make sure they get it,” said bus driver Sherry Hicks.

Sometimes, the school even calls to request new socks and even blankets that families in some communities use to keep pipes from freezing in the winter.

No matter the need, the Princeton Closet can almost always help.

“The football players have to dress for game day,” said Mary Lofty as she pointed at a rack of dress clothes. “So we have suits and belts and ties and long-sleeve shirts.”

And the need never stops.

“This is 107 coats for one school,” Wyder said to Carol Muntz, a volunteer, as they looked over some paperwork sent by one of the elementary schools.

The papers listed all the children in need of coats, their size as well as any siblings in the family and their coat size. The volunteers began to pull together coats along with hats and gloves to send to the school through a bus driver.

“The coats are up on the top,” said Wyder. “You think, ‘Oh, that looks like a lot of coats,’ but when you think of over 6,000 kids, that’s not a lot of coats.”

New and used donations are accepted at the Princeton Closet, which is equipped with a washer and two dryers to make sure whatever comes in can be used.

“We take care of the basic needs, then the school system can educate children who are loved and fed and warm," said Lofty.