Local YMCA is ‘dressing kids for success’ along with the ECASD through donation drive

EAU CLAIRE — The Eau Claire Downtown YMCA is taking donations and working with the Eau Claire Area School District to gather donations of clothing and hygiene products for students who need it.

Until May 17, the local YMCA in Eau Claire will be accepting these donations at Entrance D in their building at 700 Graham Avenue.

They will be accepting a number of donated items, but the most urgently needed for clothes include unused socks and underwear, ranging from youth small to adult XL. For hygiene products, they will accept hair brushes, shampoo, conditioner, washcloths, body wash, toothpaste, toothbrushes, lotion, deodorant, disposable razors, shaving cream, lip balm, Band-Aids, pocket tissues, hair ties, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and textured hair care items.

“As the Y, youth development and social responsibility are some of the things that we believe in and do,” said Craig Monson, executive director of the YMCA Downtown.

After speaking with Dani Graham, coordinator of the ECASD Homeless Program and ECASD Closet, Monson said he learned about how the district’s closet is used as a resource for necessary items that kids may need and not have access to.

Graham explained that the the drive existed in order to benefit “any student in need of basic items that a student would need to participate in school or get to school, like tennis shoes or winter wear in the colder months. We are about making sure that kids have those items and have those needs taken care of, so that they have what they need to participate.”

She continued, and said, “It is a good relationship builder for us to connect with families. They know that they can reach out to staff members and say, ‘My child has a need, can you help with this?’, and us be able to answer that and be able to help.”

Seeing that Monson and the local YMCA could help contribute, the donation drive was set up as a way to gather some of those items which are a little harder to obtain. Socks and underwear are valuable because the Closet will only accept them if unused or new.

Monson said he hopes that they can help add some items to the ECASD Closet before summer, offering to help students in need before getting in touch with them is harder as school is out.

“We have lots of members who come into our building every day, and a lot of them may not even understand or know the need the school district has because they don’t have children of their own or they are past that stage and they’re empty nesters. We thought, why not release the army of our Y members where this is where they can help the kids in our community?” said Monson. “We serve the community in the areas that we are able to.”

As for the service which the ECASD closet provides, Graham said it is not hard to see how this can impact the community.

“That has consistently hovered somewhere around one-third of our student population; their home income qualifies them for a free or reduced lunch and for a majority of those students, the income qualifies them for free… That means your income is below a level that can easily sustain your life at a minimal level, and that is why they get that assistance,” said Graham. “It is easy for us to look at those numbers and say, ‘If this many families are close to or in poverty, then we know that there are many other needs they are going to have.’”

Graham continued, and said, “We want students to be successful in school, and if the barriers for being successful are easily taken care of — as in having shoes for gym class, hygiene items, clothing, winter wear, school supplies — that is a pretty easy need to fill to make sure that a child is accessing and being successful in school. “