By Allison Collins
BAINBRIDGE – In addition to just-sharpened pencils and new notebooks, Bainbridge-Guilford students will start the school year with access to the district’s Bobcat Boutique Clothes Closet.
The in-school stores—one for each of B-G’s three buildings—will stock no-cost clothing, shoes, accessories, school supplies and toiletries for students.
According to a post made to district social media last week, realization of the boutique reflects B-G’s commitment to caring for one another, giving back to the community and recycling. School officials said roughly 53 percent of B-G’s student population is considered at or below the poverty line.
The project, high school principal William Zakrajsek said, got underway roughly a year ago as part of an administrative outreach initiative.
“We have our LINKS team, which is a big group of teachers and administrators who drive the things that we do in our buildings and establish what goals our district should work on,” he explained. “(Members) meet in summer, go to trainings and a lot of times they deliver professional development, but last year the big push was addressing students coming from poverty.”
Noting that LINKS members met in small groups during faculty meetings, Zakrajsek said, one of the ideas to emerge from those sessions was the clothing boutique.
“One of our board members was from Walton … and they’d been doing it, so we tried to expand on the idea and that’s where it all started,” he said.
“This past year, it was a work in progress,” he added, “but this coming school year we’ve got it where we want it to be and it’s really looking like a store. There are some nice things in there.”
Unlike some projects, Zakrajsek said, the idea was quick to take off.
“It was amazing,” he said. “Sometimes with these initiatives we have to beg people to get involved, but with this one we had overwhelming response from people wanting to be a part of it. So many staff members are so excited and energized by it.”
LINKS member and high school guidance secretary Teresa Burnett added, “This is a very interesting and great thing for these kids to be able to just get clothes and supplies or anything they need.”
Burnett said that approximately 20 staff members throughout the three buildings participated.
In a written statement, B-G Superintendent Timothy Ryan added, “It has been a group effort and the staff has been outstanding at getting the program together, washing the items if needed and organizing the rooms.”
Though Zakrajsek said the high school’s boutique is the most established, each B-G school will have a building-specific committee with a representative who monitors the clothing and supply needs of that building’s students. The high school includes students in grades 7 through 12.
Boutique inventory, Zakrajsek and Burnett noted, comes primarily from staff members and area organizations. All of the gently used items are washed and displayed by volunteers.
The boutique will be open daily during school hours, with “shoppers” welcome during study halls, breakfast and lunch. The high school shop is located in the tech building, next to a study hall classroom.
Zakrajsek and Burnett said the boutique will be open to all students, regardless of eligibility.
“We didn’t want it to come with a stigma,” he said, “so we’re just opening it up to everyone and trusting that if they’re there, they need something.”
Burnett added, “It’s for any student who wants it.”
Once a month, Zakrajsek said, proceeds from “Casual for a Cause” Fridays, wherein faculty members donate money to dress down, will benefit the boutique.
Burnett noted that such proceeds will go toward purchasing new items.
“So wherever there’s a need and we don’t have it or get it donated,” she said, “we can go and buy it.”
For more information, visit bgcsd.org or find “Bainbridge-Guilford Central School District” on Facebook.