A charity closet inside Kiski Area High School offers more than clothes.
Staffed by 10 students from the high school’s Life Skills program, the Cavalier Closet is a free student store offering donated clothing, accessories, shoes, and toiletries to any student in need.
The closet concept was created in 2014 by English teacher Emily DePanicis-Saxion and school resource officer Charity Hollis.
It all started with a single bag of clothes that a teacher gave to a student. As others began to contribute, the donated items were kept in a section of a guidance counselor’s office.
Now the Cavalier Closet takes up an entire room, once used by yearbook staff.
The room is spacious and offers many storage drawers, clothes racks, a large mirror and shelves.
“It’s self-serve, anonymous, and stigma-free,” DePanicis-Saxion said. “We have seen other schools open cupboards as well. We have so many gifts because our community is so big.
The store is open every school day.
The public is invited to drop off lightly worn clothing, shoes and accessories, as well as hygiene items, at the main entrance of the secondary school.
Students can “shop” in the store at any time and choose unlimited items. DePanicis-Saxion said the most popular items selected are new underwear, socks and hygiene products.
With prom season almost upon us, dozens of evening gowns, some brand new and bearing their original tags, are stocked and ready to go.
The closet is organized into separate areas for boys and girls. Clothing choices include semi-formal wear, formal wear, jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, belts, shoes, blouses, men’s suits and dress shirts, jackets, coats and more.
Joyce Hanz | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area High School Life Skills sophomore Jaquay Butler folds jeans Wednesday at Cavalier Closet, a store selling clothing, accessories and free toiletries for college students.
Life skills teacher Carl Donati said his students take great pride in maintaining a tidy and efficient closet.
“They budget their time and keep things organized. They spend about 45 minutes there every school day,” Donati said. “They took on a great sense of belonging with that.”
Donati estimated that he saw about a dozen students visiting the closet each school day.
Kiski Area High School Avery Celo said the closet filled a need.
“It’s very useful and great for students who may not have so much money to spend on clothes,” Celo said.
Junior Grace Geltz donated some of her own clothes to the closet.
“It’s a great safe space to get newly used clothes,” Geltz said.
The district has additional free clothes closets, including the Kiski area middle school closet.