Community Papers

Chilliwack middle school hopes to fill the cupboard

Sarah Gamboa (left) and Doreen Jones have started Community Cupboard at Chilliwack middle school, a place where those in need can go to pick up free clothing and non-perishable food.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Sarah Gamboa (left) and Doreen Jones have started Community Cupboard at Chilliwack middle school, a place where those in need can go to pick up free clothing and non-perishable food.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

At Chilliwack middle, school is about more than just educating students.

It’s about making sure they’re fed, making sure they’re properly clothed, making sure they have all the tools necessary to enable learning success.

For years, CMS has squared away used clothing in classroom cupboards and other private nooks and crannies for those “just in-case” moments – when they see a student wearing the same shirt five days in a row, or a student dressed in summer clothes during the thick of winter, or a student with rips and tears throughout their clothing attire.

No questions asked.

And now, the school is broadening its reach.

Community Cupboard, a new initiative located in a private portable at the back of the school, was recently opened for both students, and their families, to access clothes, food, and other necessities – free of charge.

And free of judgement.

“It’s really hard to learn when you’ve got all these road blocks standing in the way,” said teacher Sarah Gamboa. “And for some people, it can be really intimidating asking for help.”

Community Cupboard is open during after school hours, manned only by staff volunteers, and located in a portable at the back of the school to promote further privacy.

The size of a small thrift shop, it has neatly organized racks of coats and clothes, shelves that are lined with shoes and boots, stacks of jeans and sweaters, boxes of accessories and toiletries, and food donations too.

But it needs more.

Chilliwack middle is located in one of the city’s more socioeconomically struggling areas. A day doesn’t go by where there isn’t a student or an entire family in need.

Doreen Jones, CMS business manager, has been at the school for 15 years. She’s seen the struggles first hand. She’s listened to a mom explain why her son refuses to come to school – he was too embarrassed because his only pair of jeans had an unsightly rip, and his mom didn’t have the money to patch them up, let alone replace them. Another student, two weeks ago, had his only pair of glasses replaced by the school after breaking them a month earlier.

“He hadn’t seen properly in a month,” said Jones.

“That sort of thing goes on all the time.”

The school intends to expand the operation into something families from all the feeder schools in the area can access.

“This is something the whole community can be a part of,” said Jones, who hopes to get businesses involved by donating services like haircuts or tuneups.

“There is truly a need for this in our community.”

Donations can be dropped off at the office during school hours.

For more information on Community Cupboard contact Doreen Jones at 604-795-5781 or by email at doreen_jones@sd33.bc.ca.

Donations needed:

• all forms of clothing for all ages

• new undergarments, socks, diapers

• toiletries

• reusable grocery bags

• dry food donations

• gift cards

• monetary donations

• clothing racks

• bins

• hangers

• laundry detergent and baskets

• reusable grocery bags

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