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Catie’s Closet hosting third annual Fill the Bus event

NASHUA – For students all over the country, going back to school is an exciting time filled with freshly sharpened pencils, cool new backpacks and a slew of outfits with their tags only just cut off.

However, for all too many students, this is not the case, the kids instead wearing ill-fitting clothes handed down from an older sibling and patching holes in backpacks, worrying about fitting in.

Catie’s Closet is a nonprofit organization, started in 2010, that builds closest that look like stores inside schools and provides new and gently used clothing and toiletries to students in need. This month, they are hosting a back to school drive, collecting clothing and toiletries in the third annual Fill the Bus event.

“That first day of school means everything to a child,” said Mickey Cockrell, executive director and co-founder, adding that feeling confident and prepared sets the tone for the rest of the school year. “When children have an outfit they are comfortable in, and the right toiletries to feel clean, it’s an instant confidence boost. Children believe in themselves and believe in their future.”

Growing rapidly, Catie’s Closets are in more than 60 schools in New Hampshire and Mass., serving over 32,000 students. There are 10 closets across Nashua and Hudson alone.

“The ultimate goal of Catie’s Closet is to meet the basic needs of the child to keep them focused on their education,” organizers said in a press release. Having the basics helps children “secure a brighter future by removing the burden of fitting in,” they said.

Fill the Bus is their largest fundraiser, and seeks to accomplish just this. Communities and businesses are encouraged to host drives to collect donations through Aug. 31. Busses will be sent out to collect the donations as the boxes fill.

Currently, there are boxes set up at People’s United Bank in Nashua, 125 Daniel Webster Hwy and in Merrimack, 707 Milford Rd., Pennichuck Square.

People interested in donating can bring new and gently used clothing and new toiletries to drop off spots, or donate $15 to help complete a wardrobe. The closets serve students from age 4 to 19.

Catie’s Closet is also hosting a major Fill the Bus celebration in Copley Square in Boston Aug. 8.

In earlier interviews, schools with closets across Nashua agreed they were “invaluable.”

“Everywhere there’s somebody, a school or a pocket of children who are in need,” Cockrell said at the time.

Most of the schools that they serve have at least 40 percent of the student population who are disadvantaged.

At their distribution center in Dracut, Massachusetts, the donations are sorted through meticulously, accepting only clean, high-quality, fashionable clothing.

All of the closets are installed and organized by the nonprofit so that they all look the same and are held to the same standard.

Some of the clothes still have tags on them and they are organized by size and hung on racks in a setup that resembles a department store.

Catie’s Closet, she said, is “proof compassion can change the world.”

For more information on Catie’s Closet, Fill the Bus or to host a drive visit www.catiescloset.org

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com