South Omaha Closet expands to better serve community

The closet is now located in a storage container in Omaha South’s parking lot
Published: Apr. 23, 2021 at 4:03 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Omaha South High is solidifying its role as a community partner by expanding its South Omaha Closet.

The closet’s primary goal is to serve and support south Omaha families by providing them with basic household items like clothing, hygiene products, bedding, and more - all free of charge.

Math teacher Hannah Holguin started the project in January of 2020. She and a group of students called “Packers Pay it Forward” began gathering donated clothes and hygiene products and storing them in a closet in the back of her classroom.

After realizing the need in the community was bigger than clothing and affected more than just students, Holguin decided it was time to grow the project.

“An alumni caught wind of what we were doing and felt there were some limitations to being only available in the classroom - we could only help current students and not necessarily the whole family- and we know if maybe one family member Is struggling, the whole family may be struggling,” said Holguin.

So, after months of work and with lots of help from community members, the South Omaha Closet is now located in a large storage container in the school parking lot.

Inside are shelves, racks, and tubs filled with clothes of all sizes, shoes, hygiene products, bedding, baby items and more.

“I’m really proud of what this has resulted in,” said Holguin. “This is one way we can show that we care for one another. Yes, we’re a school, but we’re part of the community.”

Holguin says the South Omaha Closet is a resource that’s badly needed as families affected by COVID-19 try to make ends meet.

“With people losing jobs and being sick and being at home, they can’t do what they normally do,” she said. “So not only do we have grief and pain in the homes in our community but they’re struggling and so this is one way we can just care - it may be small but it shows that we are still in this together.”

Students Michelle Montenegro and Kimberly Cruz helped transition the closet from the classroom to the new container. Over winter break and spring break, the girls spent hours organizing and sorting items in the new and improved closet.

They say giving back to their community in this way is personal.

“It was things like this that would help my family growing up so when I got older I knew that I wanted to help the community,” said Montenegro.

Cruz said her family received help just like this when she was growing up.

“Ever since I was a kid I know I struggled being able to find clothes and food to eat,” she said. “I just wanted to help other families because I know it made me feel so much better.”

Families are now able to visit the closet and pick out what they need to support themselves and their families.

“Families can come and express their needs, and we’ll have a conversation, ‘how can we help you?’ and then we’ll pull out whatever it is that matches that need, and then they can take what they need and take it home. No questions, no cost at all,” said Holguin.

Michelle Montenegro and Kimberly Cruz are happy to support their south Omaha community.

“I just like seeing the faces on people’s families or students when we give them free stuff, it makes my day,” said Cruz.

“I just want people to know that there are resources, and if there aren’t and you see people struggling, create those resources for them because you would want somebody to help you,” said Montenegro.

The South Omaha Closet is open on Thursdays and Sundays through the end of May:

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