HAYDEN — When Atlas Elementary students find themselves needing fresh clothes, new shoes or other personal items, they now have a way to fill those needs.
Through its Locker Program, the Coeur Group installed a special cabinet in the school's teachers lounge so kids who are without basic items can have access to what they are missing.
"Our biggest needs are usually clothing items," Atlas principal Heather Somers said. "I think people sometimes don't understand how the funding in the school works. There is no specific fund source to help the kids. We do rely on our parents, the PTA, donations ... however, it's nice in the immediate moment when there's a crisis — the house burns down, they're going into foster care, they're going somewhere that they need help immediately — to me, this really makes a difference for us to immediately fill the needs of those kids."
On Friday, members of the Coeur Group met with Somers and vice president Kathy Livingston to present them with a $2,000 check to stock the cabinet and celebrate Atlas joining the several other schools in the community that have a "locker." The presentation was also attended by Lola Hagadone, who, with her daughter, Paige Leifer, attended an Excel Foundation event last fall and bid the highest to have their names on a plaque on the cabinet. All of those funds went to Excel, which grants funds to teachers for innovative classroom projects.
The "locker" cabinet at Atlas has several shelves and a coat rack and is known as the "Explorer's Bunker," named for the school mascot.
"I was so pleased to get to meet the people from the Coeur Group and to see all these young men be so committed and caring about the children in our schools," Hagadone said. "It really opened my eyes to see the need. I will continue to make contributions and encourage people in the community to meet with these young men and see the need."
The Coeur Group is a collection of young businessmen in the Coeur d'Alene area representing various industries in the community. The group has installed these special lockers in more than a dozen schools.
Borah Elementary's locker has been in place for more than three years. Principal Rick Kline said 91 percent of Borah's student population is on free or reduced school lunches, so the locker is always in use. It is usually filled with clothing items, from knitted hats and winter coats to undergarments, jeans and shirts of all sizes.
"Everybody just pitches in to do whatever it takes to make our kids and their families successful," he said, adding he wanted to thank the Coeur Group and everyone behind the Locker Program.
Bryan Elementary also experiences a high poverty rate. Principal Kristin Gorringe said their locker is managed by the parent-teacher association, which keeps inventory and makes sure the locker is stocked. She said they are working to make it more of an anonymous process so students can privately request items such as toiletries and clothing.
"Many of our kids come to us with needs, everything from school supplies to shoes and coats," she said. "The locker's been a great resource for us. If the kids need something, we can meet that need right away. It's just a matter of walking to the locker and providing them with whatever they need."
She said the Coeur Group and the caring individuals who help make the Locker Project possible are "a perfect example of people in our community supporting not just education, but supporting our kids."
"This is a result of people wanting to do good things for us," Gorringe said.
For information or to donate to the Coeur Group's Locker Program, visit www.thecoeurgroup.com.