Niota, Tenn. — In an unused locker room at Niota Elementary School, you’ll find the comfort closet.
It was created by kindergarten teachers Heather Malick and Vanessa Bateman after they spoke to their coworkers and discovered that they weren't the only ones giving their own time and money to take care of their students.
"With Pre-K through eighth grade, there’s all different reasons that you would need extra clothes or hygiene products, so we came together and found a space that we could do it in and started collecting," Bateman said.
The teachers reached out to the community for supplies, and now they have something for just about everyone.
“We can put what they need in their backpack, and then they can go back to class and their classmates don’t even need to know that they needed something extra," Malick said.
The visit to the closet can be discrete and stay between the teacher and student. Or in some cases, the new clothes are just too exciting not to share.
“We had a student who was wearing a jacket that was a couple of sizes too big. It was getting in the way of writing and working," Bateman said. "So we got him a jacket that fit perfectly. He had to show everybody in class that it was new and it fit and that he had some matching pants to go along with it."
Malick and Bateman hope to see more comfort closets coming together at other schools in East Tennessee. If you would like to donate, you can bring clothing or hygiene items to the school.
Monetary donations can be sent to P.O. Box 709, Niota, TN 37826. Make sure to mark checks "Comfort Closet PTO."
If you know someone Paying it Forward in your community, send us an email at PayItForward@wbir.com.