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In 2019, Horizon Middle School staff opened a clothing closet in their front office. It’s a simple setup – a portable hanger with lots of jackets and other donated clothes hanging on it, along with some boots and shoes. Students can walk in at any time and grab any item they need.

By the start of 2022, every school in Ferndale should have a similar clothing closet of their own, thanks to an effort spearheaded by Bárbara del Mar Robles, Director of Equity and Inclusion for Ferndale School District. An ongoing coat drive and generous donations from Ferndale shop Bella Consignments should be able to fill closets across the district, for all age ranges.

When the closets open to students, they should have more than just clothes, Robles said.

“The hope is that it will not only be a clothing closet, but it will also be a small pantry as well, where families can get food, students can get snacks if they’re feeling hungry in the middle of the day, or they can get toiletries if they need to take them home with them,” she said.

One of Robles’ priorities is to ensure that there won’t be a stigma for students grabbing stuff from the closets, she said. That’s why any student will be able to access the food and clothing inside, not just low-income students.

“Once one student goes in there, and makes that a normal thing, then other students will follow,” Robles said. “Maybe little John will have a really cool coat. And his friend will say, ‘Hey, where’d you get that coat?’ And he’ll say, ‘Oh, I found it at the clothing closet.’”

Many of the clothes in these closets will be donations from Bella Consignment. Owner Martha Bermudez, who opened the store in May 2021, said she was looking for charities to take in the clothes they didn’t sell, and reached out to Ferndale School District.

“One of the reasons why we wanted to do this is because our main thing is to help with the community -- especially students,” said Bermudez, who has three children in Ferndale schools.

When donating clothes to Ferndale schools, Bermudez said she makes sure to pick trendier outfits, so the teens will want to wear them. Older styles are donated to a retirement home, she said.

“I was a teenager once, and I was very picky when I was in middle and high school,” Bermudez said with a chuckle.

Ferndale schools are also accepting coat donations from the community this fall. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 1, donation boxes are set up at each Ferndale school building (except Beach Elementary and North Bellingham Learning Center) and Ferndale Laundry. Every coat that’s donated will be cleaned at Ferndale Laundry before being given to students, Robles said.

As of Oct. 21, about 50 coats have been donated in a wide range of sizes, said Robles. But the district still needs more donations.

“We definitely need more coats to fill up those closets,” Robles said. “And we need every size, from very young children, to adult.”

Bella Consignment photo