ROGERSVILLE — A program that contributes a variety of necessities to many of Hawkins County’s underprivileged K-12 students is in need of some contributions itself to keep up with the growing demand for its services.
Rogersville Presbyterian Church’s Sarah's Closet was named to honor the late Sarah Evans, who taught in public schools for 40 years and dedicated her life to serving children.
Upon retiring from Surgoinsville Elementary in 2009, Evans continued working with children at her church and at the H.B. Stamps Public Library.
On Wednesday morning, Mary Ellen Elkins, Evans’ daughter, was joined by RPC Pastor Rodney Norris and Sarah’s Closet program coordinator Pearl Snelling in dropping off a large donation of hygiene products and toiletry items at Rogersville City School.
RCS Coordinated School Health Director Stephanie Eidson received those donations and said they will be distributed to students through their teachers as needs arise.
Sarah’s Closet also benefits all 19 campuses in the Hawkins County school system, which distributes donated items to families in need through the Family Resource Center (FRC).
FRC Director April Couch also participated in a brief ceremony Wednesday morning at RCS to help raise awareness of how important the Sarah’s Closet donations are to the disadvantaged families across the county.
“They said, ‘First we need hygiene items’ ”
When RPC launched Sarah’s Closet two years ago, the first thing organizers did was ask the schools what they need.
“They said, ‘First we need hygiene items,’ ” Elkins told the Times News Wednesday. “Just those basic things that people sometimes forget about. It’s easy to buy school supplies at the beginning of the year, clothes and things like that, but things like deodorant and toothpaste are the little things that a lot of times get overlooked.
“That’s what they asked for, so that’s what we started with, and as the fund grew — and we hope that it will grow even more — we were able to answer more specific requests through the counselors at each of those schools.”
As the school year progresses, Sarah’s Closet will provide schools with monetary donations as well that can be used to purchase clothes, shoes, school supplies — whatever children need.
“We’re asking for support from the community”
Snelling noted that enthusiasm has been high for gathering donations to support Sarah’s Closet, but the demand is also high, and the program is in need of a boost from the community at large.
“Our church congregation has been very generous with their donations, both in hygiene products and monetarily,” Snelling said. “But it’s kind of dwindled off, and we can do more if the community will help. We’re asking for support from the community, if they would like to give a monetary donation, or the hygiene products so we can give more to children in need.”
Donations can be dropped off at the church on weekdays during business hours. Financial contributions can be mailed to Sarah’s Closet i/c/o Rogersville Presbyterian Church, 309 W. Kyle St., Rogersville, TN 37857.
Eidson noted that providing an education to a child sometimes means meeting some of the needs that aren’t being met at home.
“They come to school with all kinds of emotional, social, and physical needs, so this (Sarah’s Closet) has been such a blessing and such a great community partner,” Eidson noted. “Otherwise we wouldn’t have funds to provide that in the school system. This has provided school supplies, hygiene, clothing, so the child can be here and ready to learn and do their very best.”
How great is the need?
Last year, the Hawkins County school system’s Family Resource Center served more than 1,400 families from all 19 schools with the system.
“With the help we get from Sarah’s Closet, we are able to provide more specific things that children need,” Couch said. “Like Pearl said, shoes are a big need in the county. We are also the homeless liaison for the county, and we help a lot of the families that are in transition and are needing specific things that we just don’t have the funds for.
“Our demand is always bigger than the resources. With this money we are able to meet more needs. But, being a county with no shelter, it is harder to meet the needs of families in transition and trying to find affordable housing.”