A trio of Superior Middle School eighth graders plan to warm the holiday for students in the Superior School District.

Desera Grymala, Madison Keener and Madisen Doran have launched a clothing drive to restock clothing closets at Superior High School, Superior Middle School and Cooper, Great Lakes and Lake Superior elementary schools.

"We are doing this because a lot of kids don’t have winter clothes, especially because of the pandemic," said Grymala.

Clothing for students of all ages, from preschoolers to graduating seniors, is needed, particularly winter outerwear.

The teens were inspired by a book they read for English class, Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy,” and by what was happening around them.

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“I think what inspired us the most is, all because of the pandemic, people lost their jobs and were fired,” Doran said. “People don’t have enough money after that to buy new stuff.”

Madison Keener, left, and Desera Grymala fold clothes donated for a clothing closet outside of Bethel Lutheran Church in Superior Wednesday, Dec. 9. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Madison Keener, left, and Desera Grymala fold clothes donated for a clothing closet outside of Bethel Lutheran Church in Superior Wednesday, Dec. 9. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

A jacket that actually keeps you warm, she said, isn’t cheap.

The most difficult part of coordinating the project has been doing it long-distance, the girls said. They fought through computer lag and distance to turn their concept into reality.

“I am proud of the work these girls have done to bring this project to life,” said eighth grade English teacher Amanda Lindquist. “It started with a book and an idea and has become a reality. Students never cease to amaze me with their empathy for others and desire to give back to their community.”

The district opened its first clothing closet at Superior Middle School in 2008, and it continues to be the most active. Amy Warring, family services coordinator for the district, said the SMS clothes closet gets an average of 30 visits per month. The high school closet, which opened in 2009, gets about 10.

Items that are most often needed by students are shirts, sweatshirts, pants, leggings, which can be gently used, and new underwear and socks. Hygiene products and school supplies are also available through the closets. More information is available online.

“It's important for students to have their basic needs met so they can be physically comfortable and have a social and emotional readiness to learn,” Warring said. “It's very difficult to sit through class with cold feet because you're wearing wet socks under worn-out shoes or because you've been unable to wash your clothes and your peers are noticing stains and odors.”

Each elementary school also has a small clothes closet and collects winter clothing to distribute to students during cold weather. When the girls reached out to schools asking if they’d like to be included, Great Lakes Elementary was the first to respond.

Items in the clothing closets are still available to children during the district’s move to virtual learning.

“We are providing items that families request usually through their school counselor,” Warring said. “I've been gathering items for many of our families who are living in transition or are homeless.”

Families either pick up items at their child’s school or the administrative building. Delivery is arranged for families without transportation.

“We want to provide our students with the tools they need to learn, and that sometimes includes providing clothing, hygiene supplies, and laundry vouchers or laundering clothes at school,” Warring said.

The trio of middle school students met up for a picture at Bethel Lutheran Church Wednesday, Dec. 9. They moved from spot to spot with laughter and energy, basking in the sunshine and each other’s company. The best part of putting it all together, Keener said, was the experience.

“It’s helping people in need,” Grymala said.

Drop boxes for new and gently-used clothing will be set up in front of each school. Clothing can also be dropped off on the bench outside the door of Bethel Lutheran Church, 5821 John Ave. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 22.

Additional opportunities for giving

  • The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, 305 Harbor View Parkway, is currently collecting donations for residents of the Minnesota Veterans Home in Silver Bay. Donations can be dropped off at the Bong Center through Dec. 21. A full list of needed items, from gift cards and puzzles to personal care items and candy, can be found on the Silver Bay Veterans Home website.
  • Beginning Monday, Dec. 14, Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center Staff will be distributing MREs to veterans in need at the center. They have 1,344 meals available to any veteran until all of them are distributed.
  • This year, people can send a gift to Toys for Tots without setting foot in a store. The Superior Fire Department and Salvation Army of Superior are partnering with Walmart, Target and Amazon to provide online registries of pre-designated items that are on local children's wish lists. Links to the registries are posted on the Superior Fire Department's Facebook page.
  • The Northwestern High School Student Council is partnering with Kids in Nebagamon, a district-wide nonprofit, to host a toy drive. They are collecting funds through a GoFundMe site to purchase gifts for students whose stockings may be less full than other years this Christmas season.