Keizer Klosets fills needs of local students

 Audrey Butler, an independent sales director with Mary Kay, is president of the Keizer Community Foundation, organizers of Keizer Klosets. (LYNDON ZAITZ/Keizertimes)

 The need is real; the need is deep.

Hundreds of public school students of every level in Keizer need assistance in the form of food, clothes and hygiene products. The Keizer Community Foundation, through its Keizer Klosets project answers the call every year.

Audrey Butler is president of the foundation and the primary force behind the Klosets.

Keizer Klosets has been successful because it fills the need of hundreds of local students. Since the beginning of the school year last fall, the Klosets in Keizer’s 10 schools have been accessed more than 8,000 times. Butler calls these ‘touches’—anytime a student gets something. By far the highest number comes at Clearlake Elementary School (1,600) followed by Kennedy Elementary (1,300) and Forest Ridge Elementary (928). 

Teachers and counselors at each school are key to getting items to students. Teachers communicate with counselors, who reach out to students in need.

Maintaining a student’s dignity and self-esteem is paramount with the project, especially for high school students..

“We believe children who are fed, warm and feeling clean are more confident and readily accepted by their peers; these children can focus on learning,” wrote Butler in a letter to the Keizer City Council.

The council voted at its July 17 meeting to grant $14,700 in ARPA funds to the Kloset project, the same amount granted by the council in 2022.

In the 2022-23 school year the Keizer Community Foundation spent almost $14,000 on food, hygiene products and clothes for Keizer Klosets.

The main benefactors have been the Oregon Community Foundation, the Salem Association of Realtors and the city of Keizer.

Students are appreciative of the Klosets. Butler has received letters from high school students, one writing, “I don’t know if I would’ve made it through high school if you hadn’t been there. I don’t know if I would’ve graduated this year if guys hadn’t helped.”

Butler hopes that the recipients of goods from the Klosets will learn by example and “they’re going to be the change.”

The idea for Keizer Klosets was borne from the sight of a counselor’s office at McNary High School. Kim Pittsley helped Butler put the Kloset program together. “She’s the one that had all that food in her office,” remembered Butler. “She said, ‘there’s kids that go home and they don’t have anything to eat on the weekend’,” Butler added.

Early in the program barrels were posted at various Keizer businesses in which the public could deposit clothes and needed items. COVID put a stop to that, at the direction of the school district. That forced the Keizer Community Foundation to turn to newly purchased clothing items from outlets such as Amazon.

Though the city council approved a grant for the upcoming school year, Keizer Community Foundation’s Keizer Klosets seeks financial donations from the public. The foundation plans a $5,000 buffer to address any unexpected expenses and as seed for coming years.

With more than 8,000 student visits each year to a Kloset in one of 10 schools, the need will continue. Some students need help with food, personal hygiene products and clothing all year round.

To donate food or personal hygiene products there is a donation barrel at the Keizertimes office at 142 Chemawa Road NE. To provide financial donations, mail to Keizer Klostets, PO Box 20221, Keizer, OR 97307.