Malvern Elementary School’s Stephanie Sawyer cares about her kids. Considering that her kids number around 700, that’s a lot of care.

As the school’s counselor, Sawyer is responsible for the mental and hygienic health of all of the pupils. Many of them are from families that do not have enough money to ensure that the kids are well clothed, and that’s where Sawyer comes in.

During this month’s Rotary Club meeting at the Malvern Country Club, Sawyer shared about her experiences at the school.

A teacher of eight years, Sawyer decided to become a counselor when she noticed that some of the children she worked with didn’t have enough food, shelter, or physical care that they needed. She has now been counselor for four years, and she’s helped hundreds of children along the way.

“Even though I grew up here,” Sawyer said, “I never saw the people who were in need. They’re really good at hiding what they don’t have. They don’t want you to know that they don’t have food to eat or that they’re having to surf couches at night. That made me think that, by becoming counselor, I could help a little bit more than I could in the classroom.”

One of the biggest needs for kindergarten through fourth grade is clothes. “Sometimes they’re wearing their dad’s shirts,” she said, “or their sister’s clothes. Their clothes just don’t fit.”

Sawyer recognizes that most parents are doing all they can for their children. She also knows, however, that some parents are using money that could benefit their children for more nefarious things. 

“It’s not the kid’s fault that they are in the situation they’re in,” Sawyer said. “We just do the best that we can for them.”

The Clothes Closet is a major resource for children like this. Filled almost entirely by donations, the closet is meant for children who do not have the proper attire for daily life.

The Clothes Closet doesn’t just accept anything, though. Sawyer and those that assist her are constantly rummaging through trash bags to sort out the clothes that would best benefit the children in need of care.

“If the kids are coming to you because they actually need clothes, you want to give them something that they will be proud of,” Sawyer said. 

While students that don’t have clothes at home often come to the Closet, there are other children that need garments for different reasons. “Sometimes they have accidents,” Sawyer said. “Instead of having to make their parents leave work, we just have the Closet ready for them to have clothes to change in to. Our playgrounds are very muddy.”

The goal of the closet, especially when dealing with the children who only need clothes because of a playground or bathroom related accident, is to loan the clothes out and get them back in a few days time. Of course, that often doesn’t happen. 

A lot of the time children will take the clothes and never return them. While these kids aren’t penalized for this action in any way, there is still the issue of not having enough garments to go around.

“One of our biggest needs is underwear,” she said, “or like pants or shorts... whatever the season may be.

Sawyer has harrowing stories about children in bad situations. Sometimes, all one can do is their best. It’s a good thing that Stephanie Sawyer’s best is the Clothes Closet.

“I had a fourth grader this year who was living in a car,” Sawyer said. “The family finally moved into a hotel, but it was a really bad [situation].”

“He had an accident every day,” she said. “We knew that there was more going on with that, but the kid couldn’t help it. The parents didn’t have enough money to buy clothes for him, so we supplied them. You wouldn’t think that older kids would have a need for that, but really we have a need kindergarten through the fourth grade.”


For the rest of this story and much more, pick up our daily newspaper, the Malvern Daily Record.

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