Schenectady City Mission program helps MLK Elementary students to stay warm in frigid temps

MLK Elementary School therapist Rebecca Fogg, left, helps student Akita Sistrunk, 11, pick out a sweat shirt in the school's clothing boutique Friday.

MLK Elementary School therapist Rebecca Fogg, left, helps student Akita Sistrunk, 11, pick out a sweat shirt in the school's clothing boutique Friday.

Article Audio:

SCHENECTADY — With frigid temperatures descending on the region this weekend, students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School will remain warm thanks to the Unique Boutique, a partnership with the City Mission that provides free clothing to Schenectady students.

A wind chill warning is to last for the area until noon on Saturday as temperatures potentially falling as low as 30 to 35 degrees below zero. The MLK Elementary winter coat drive in conjunction with City Mission will provide a lifeline to district students, organizers said.

“City Mission helped us do a big coat drive before the winter,” MLK social worker Asha Evans said on Friday. “We sent home forms asking parents if their child needed a coat and they sent sizes back to us. City Mission fulfilled the orders for almost 100 students.”

The boutique encompasses an entire classroom at MLK Elementary to provide clothing of all types to students in need.

The program dates back to 2016 when the school reached out to City Mission to initiate a partnership to clothe students in need.

“Back then they actually used to go to the City Mission and pick clothes that the kids needed and over time it evolved,” Evans said. “The space that we’re in has become bigger and bigger. City Mission now sends volunteers once a week to open it up as a shop.”

The program is based on need for students whose families lack the resources, but the program also allows students to earn boutique dollars to acquire an item from the shop by completing tasks such as assisting fellow students or completing homework assignments.

Representatives from City Mission replenish the boutique every Wednesday to keep the site well-stocked with items ranging from shoes to jeans.

“It’s tremendously important in so many ways,” Sharon Sager of  the City Mission said of the program. “It also gives an opportunity for kids like the student council to come in and have their own collections. We’ve branched out into 11 (Schenectady) schools to help them in some shape or form. Keane (Elementary) has a small room and we just got a call this morning from Zoller (Elementary) for an immediate need for 150 pairs of gloves and hats.”

Fifth-grader Akira Sistrunk browsed the items in the boutique on Friday morning and said her favorite items that she previously acquired at the boutique include a pair of army pants and a matching set of pajamas for her mother.

“It’s really a lot of fun to be here,” she said. “The things that we want we can get, but we can only get a certain amount of stuff. Because you can’t come here every day.”

Sistrunk said she would like to donate her own baby clothes that she’s outgrown to the program.

Over the summer, MLK Elementary held a back to school block party where representatives from the City Mission were present so families could pick up items from the boutique in advance of the start of the school year.

“It was huge because parents could come in and shop for all of their kids,” Kristin Munrett, Principal of MLK Elementary, said on Friday. “They were able to pick out a few outfits and City Mission provided 240 brand new pairs of sneakers. So the kids got all brand new sneakers and socks and underwear. We put a little pantry in here, so we’re adding to it.”

The program accepts clothing donations for any age group, as some district families need items for multiple family members including parents.

“We’ve had parents come in for men’s coats,” Munrett said. “We take any size.”

All of the items in the boutique originate from resident and business donations.

“We have probably 30 red boxes in and around Schenectady and wonderful donors come and drop off items,” Erin Breslin of City Mission said. “We have wonderful volunteers who help to sort them. Then we have the administrators and teachers here who help to make sure that everything that’s needed shows up here and then you get to see the joy of the children that come and shop for items that they really want.”

Categories: News, News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

Leave a Reply