Every year a clothing rack pops up in the BHS lobby. A colorful array of gently used coats, it’s decorated with a sign that reads “Coat Drive: Need one? Take one!” While it may just cause a passing glance for some students, many Burlington High School (BHS) students and their families “shop” gently used coats to protect against the harsh, Vermont winter. This drive is organized by the Refugee Outreach Club, a student-led group focused on tutoring and organizing resource drives to provide recent immigrants with winter clothing and sanitation products.
“There are certain families that I know of that don’t have coats or boots so we’re working on getting them coats and boots specifically,” Maggie Barlow said, “It’s important because we actually are giving people their primary coats and boots and their primary pair of boots.”
Barlow and Ruby Guth, two seniors at BHS who have both been in the club since they started at BHS lead the club. Barlow and Guth said they got really involved in their junior year when they attended a coat drive and were astounded by the turnout of both fellow students as well as their families.
“We are really working to try and build it up more this year and spread more awareness.” Guth said, “We’re trying to do that for the upcoming diaper and sanitation drive.” The sanitation drive is running through January.
Beth Evans, one of BHS’ English Language (EL) teachers, helps facilitate the intake, or entry, of refugee children into BHS. While she doesn’t organize the coat drive in the lobby, Evans tries to make it easier for students entering an entirely new country and climate to access their education. This includes getting them the appropriate attire to travel to school and enjoy the outdoors. To do so, Evans organizes online drives on donorschoose.org to get students access to shoes or socks, simple things they likely wouldn’t be used to needing in their home country.
“They’re coming from really warm areas where it never gets this cold, so they don’t come prepared for the weather we have,” Evans said, “When I taught in the elementary school I would see moms coming to school with their kids wearing flip flops and you just can’t survive in this with that. Getting things like coats and boots and hats and scarves, it’s very important to keep them warm.”
The material resources are helpful for the New Americans, but Guth also said the resources are a way of making folks welcome.
“Another aspect of it is also just connecting the community in.” Guth said
To help meet those needs, however, the drive relies on people bringing in old coats for others in the community.
“There is likely an extra coat at your house that you don’t need anymore,” Barlow said, “Somebody at school would really appreciate to have it.”
Both the coat drive and the sanitation drive are still running. If you have anything that you would like to donate, bring them into the front office!