FLMS Clothes Closet operational again

Fort Loudoun Middle School teacher Jeana Gray hangs a shirt after it has been processed per new guidelines.

Fort Loudoun Middle School’s Clothes Closet is operational again.

The closet has been closed since February due to coronavirus concerns but opened for the first time in months Saturday with some changes. Anyone entering the closet must have their temperature taken and will be asked health questions for evaluations.

Families are also given appointments to shop, Candics Jones, FLMS teacher and Clothes Closet Committee member, said.

“What we have done is everyone can sign up in slots,” Jones said. “Everyone can sign up in 30-minute slots, and in those 30-minute slots only a certain amount of people as far as family wise can come during that time. Once the time is up, we will sanitize and clean whatever we need to, but they must call or sign up before they can even come.”

Jeana Gray, FLMS teacher and committee member, said the need for the closet has increased with families losing income.

“Normally on a Saturday we will have anywhere from four to six families in a four-hour span,” Gray said. “Within a day, I had booked 11 families in our appointment times, and there’s one on the wait list. They’re all families in our community. They have children that either go here or Loudon Elementary School, and so that just tells me there is a need for this.”

Gray has also had to change the way she processes donations.

“As the donations come in, we leave them in our donation bin for two weeks,” she said. “We don’t bring them into the Clothes Closet. We wash the clothing or sanitize it with spray, and that’s just for our protection. I wear protection gear when I’m processing the clothing, and I just feel like that gives it time to sit and do what it needs to do if anything’s on it, and then we take it out. … We’re taking as many precautions as we can to keep everyone safe, because it is our objective to have a safe shopping environment for our students and our families and to do what we can to give back to them, because we feel like this is a need.”

The closet has seen an influx in donations during its closure. Gray credits people cleaning out their closets with the extra downtime from schools being closed and working from home.

The committee consists of Gray, Jones and FLMS teacher Heather Watson. Volunteers aren’t currently allowed to work the closet.

“In the past, we have involved community service as a community service project,” Gray said. “If students needed hours for Tennessee Promise, any sports teams that they were doing community service hours, we would have them come in and volunteer. Right now it’s just teachers because we’re not allowed to have volunteers in the building. We’ll see where that goes as regulations are changing hourly, but right now to keep everyone safe it’s only our Clothes Closet Committee that’s working.”

Jones said he and Gray have worked out a staggered system to make sure the workload doesn’t get overwhelming.

“Last year, me and Ms. Gray, it was usually just me and her, and sometimes moms would come, but we staggered it where she would do one Saturday and the next month I’ll do a Saturday,” Jones said. “So I think with us doing it in groups it won’t be as bad as long as we’re doing protocol as far as keeping everyone distanced and keeping the 30-minute slot periods and us cleaning. I think we’ll be just fine.”

For more information, call the school at 865-458-2026.