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Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017
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Charity opens heart, closet to needy kids

— Since 2001, Hillsborough County Public Schools’ social workers have been able to pick out free clothes and necessary items for disadvantaged students from OASIS clothing closets in New Tampa and South Tampa.

Recently an OASIS (Outreach Assisting Students in School) location opened in Seffner, not far from the junction of I-4 and I-75, making it a more convenient stop for district social workers living or working in eastern and southern Hillsborough County. They identify which students need assistance (due to acute poverty or catastrophe), go to the clothes closet, select what they lack and bring it to them at school.

The award-winning OASIS organization accepts new and gently worn clothes for children of all grades, ages and sizes. Although most recipients are school age, and more are elementary than middle- or high-school students, occasionally younger siblings and students’ babies also get free clothes.

Ginger Bean of New Tampa founded OASIS in 2001 when she realized that students without changes of clothing often were too embarrassed to attend school. She began collecting children’s apparel and buying new underwear and socks, hygiene items, backpacks, school supplies and alarm clocks for students. By providing what kids need to wake up and get dressed, OASIS encourages students to keep coming to school.

All of the approximately 140 social workers serving about 245 schools in the county have access to OASIS sites, said Bean. For the past several years, roughly 100 social workers have helped about 11,000 students per year.

Although 60 percent of the 206,000 students in the school district receive free or reduced-price lunches, not all of them desperately need clothing. Families may receive hand-me-down clothes or buy at thrift stores, said Bean, but they need new food every day to allow them to think and focus on school.

OASIS is supported by donations, grants and sponsorships and gets no government funding.

The Seffner location needs volunteers, individuals or civic clubs or religious organizations, to sort donations, launder clothing and organize items on the racks and shelves.

Also desired is gently used clothing in youth sizes 4 to 16 for boys and girls: short-sleeved shirts, shorts and blue jeans, and medium or light-weight hoodie jackets to wear in the air conditioning.

Donations may be left in drop boxes at the New Tampa YMCA, 16211 Compton Drive, and South Tampa YMCA, 4411 S. Himes Ave. If someone hosts a clothing drive and has a large donation, contact Bean at (813) 975-8179 or OASISNewTampa@aol.com.

“I can meet them at one of our sites,” she said. “I love to give tours so people who give to us can see how we serve the students.”

Send community news to Barbara.Routen@gmail.com

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