'Needs Closet' opens at Martinsville High School

Closet contains food, clothes, toiletries for students in need

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – When Martinsville High School students head back to class Wednesday, students in need will have a place to get things like clothes and toiletries.

Below the high school's library is a large storage room tucked away inside a smaller storage room.

The large storage room has racks of clothes, non-perishable food items like granola bars and soup, and toiletries like soap and shampoo.

Martinsville High School Principal Aji Dixon says the Needs Closet is the culmination of several years of hard work and he expects it to start getting used right away.

"It's really structured and organized and I think people in the community understand how they can go about helping our young people," Dixon said.

The closet is an expansion of the Cops, Kids & Clothes ministry that retired Martinsville police officer Mark Gilbert has been running at his church for the past four years.

"About two years ago, I started noticing around the country that a lot of schools were doing these Needs Closets," Gilbert said. "I kind of set a goal of trying to have one done in at least one of the Martinsville city schools, and the high school is where I get most of my requests for help."

All of the items in the closet have been donated.

Teachers and staff at the high school will refer students to guidance counselor Kristen Harris who will then work with the students to get them the items they need.

Harris says the closet is a great way to help students work through their personal issues.

"When you fulfill that basic need for clothing or food or hygiene supplies, you unlock the potential in the student," Harris said.

Gilbert encourages people wanting to donate to check out the Cops, Kids, & Clothes ministry Facebook page for items needed.

He hopes to eventually set up a closet in every Martinsville school, and possibly every Henry County school as well.

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