On the lower level of Edward Little High School, around the corner from the cafeteria and food pantry, is a small, non-descript closet. Behind the wooden door, there are clothes, shoes, gloves and hats stacked on every available surface or hung from a movable clothes rack.

It is the Edward Little Clothes Closet, started in the spring of 2012, available for free to teens and their families who have a need for items.

“Coats are needed a lot this time of the year,” said one of the founders, Rosaria Chantrill, a family and consumer sciences teacher at the high school. “I gave out something like four coats last week, along with gloves mittens and hats.”

“We have kids coming to school in just sweatshirts,” said Pat Gautier, librarian, media specialist and one of the Clothes Closet’s founders. “I saw two today coming down the street. It was 8 degrees.” 

Last Wednesday was an extra-special day for the Clothes Closet. Lewiston police Deputy Chief Jim Minkowski and Detective Bill Brochu delivered more than $700 worth of clothes the Lewiston Police Athletic League had purchased from Sports Authority in Auburn, receiving a generous discount from the store.

“Usually around Christmas, we look around for a family in need, but because of the fires, there was a lot of generosity in the community,” Minkowsky, a board member of LPAL, said. “We heard about the Clothes Closet over here, and we thought it was a great place to bring some stuff for kids on a day-to-day basis that might need some warm-weather items.”

LPAL is part of the National Police Athletic League and covers all of Androscoggin County. It gives out sponsorships to area high school, middle school and Little League teams, along with scholarships to Androscoggin County high school seniors.

Last week, they brightened the lives of the 70 to 100 students per year the Clothes Closet serves.

“Oh my gosh, these are awesome,” Chantrill said as she and Gautier looked through name brand gym clothes, hats, gloves and socks. “These are so needed. Thank you so much.” 

“We really appreciate it — there certainly is a need,” Gautier added.

Gautier said she thinks this year has been harder because a lot people are out of work, and there are more high schooler students who are living on their own, trying to support themselves. Also, some parents just don’t have the money.

“I gave out close to 70 items just before Christmas,” Chantrill added.

Chantrill and Gautier, along with Chantrill’s Fashion and Design class, who do repairs on donated clothing, keeps track of what’s taken so they can restock the closet with  service-learning clothes drives or donations of new clothes from the community and local businesses, such as New Balance, a regular contributor.

“We had a local business man who heard about us and brought in a bunch of stuff, just like Lewiston Police Athletic League,” Chantrill said.

But for Minkowsky, Brochu, Chantrill and Gautier, it’s about helping the teens and their families in a time of need.

“It’s been working really well,” Chantrill said. “We have a lot of needs this year. More than we’ve seen in a long time.” 

To help the Edward Little High Clothes Closet, contact Chantrill or Gautier at the school at 207-783-8528.

To help donate to the Lewiston Police Athletic League, you can attend the upcoming Lewiston PAL All-Stars vs. The Boston Bruins All-Stars hockey game on Valentine’s Night at 7 p.m. at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee for a donation, or contact Det. Bill Brochu at the Lewiston Police Department at 207-573-3001.

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