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Laurel Valley’s Kids Korner provides clothing for families in need

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Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Shirley Nipps puts away various items at the LVSD's Foundation “Kidz Kare Fund” clothing closet for kids in need.
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Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Volunteers Diane Dennis (left) and Nancy Zur puts away various items at the LVSD's Foundation “Kidz Kare Fund” clothing closet for kids in need.

A year has passed since the Ligonier Valley School District Foundation started its Kidz Kare Fund in an effort to help students whose basic needs were not being met.

Its latest undertaking is going beyond its initial mission of helping children and reaching out to entire families.

The Kids Korner at Laurel Valley Elementary School is a vacant classroom transformed into a clothing closet, manned by volunteers, where clothing donations of all sizes for both children and adults are collected to be distributed to families in need within the district.

“It’s not just for kids,” said foundation member Irma Hutchinson. “It’s for families, too, and that’s the important thing. If there’s a family that needs stuff, the whole family benefits, and that’s the beauty of the program.”

Donations have been collected primarily through word of mouth, from churches and families throughout the district. The charity has created bonds between people who have not interacted very much in the past but have the same mission, Principal Ed Moran said.

“The other beauty of the program is it’s creating relationships between our communities because now we have the ministerium in the north and the ministerium in the south and everyone is pulling in the same direction with the common goal of helping kids and families through the school,” Moran said. “It’s a fabulous partnership.”

Last year, Hutchinson and Ligonier Valley’s home and school visitor Tamra Springer visited a similar program at the Derry Area School District to see how it operates.

“They’ve had one for quite a while, and it’s been very productive for them,” Hutchinson said.

“We could see that it would really, really be useful here in our district, given the number of students that have a need,” she said.

Moran said it’s difficult to educate a child if they’re hungry or don’t have appropriate clothes.

“The school district’s primary function is to educate but to do that, sometimes we have to help with other issues, and fortunately we have people within our community at both ends of the valley that just want to help,” Moran said.

Prior to starting the Kids Korner, Moran said faculty members were offering the same help on a smaller scale as needed.

“For instance if a little boy or a little girl came to school and they didn’t have shoes on, then one of us would run down to the Dollar General and buy them a pair of shoes,” he said.

As the needs became more apparent, Moran said they decided they had to create something more structured.

There are families throughout the entire valley that are in need, Moran said.

“It’s a commonality within the district, within our region, within Westmoreland County,” Moran said. “Fortunately we have a group of people who want to help address that need. We’re blessed.”

To distribute the clothing, when a faculty or staff member becomes aware of someone in need, Moran said they find out what items the person needs and they pick out the items from the Kids Korner. Either the family picks up the items, or a volunteer delivers them.

The clothing-filled classroom is cared for by women from Heritage United Methodist’s women’s group, Circle One. Volunteer Diane Dennis, 75, of Ligonier Borough said they have received donations from area merchants to help jump-start the operation, such as sizing tags from Betsy’s of Ligonier and a dozen capris from Martin’s Specialty Shop.

The Kids Korner is currently in need of winter coats and cold weather accessories, as well as hangers to help organize the many donations they have already collected.

“It just gives you such a wonderful feeling to be able to know that you’ve helped these children,” said volunteer Shirley Nipps, 75, of Ligonier Township.

For more information, email Irma Hutchinson at [email protected].

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or [email protected].

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