SEYMOUR, Ind. (AP) - Sativa Jones knows what it's like to need clothes but not have enough money to buy them.
That's why the seventh-grader decided to collect as many items as she could for Seymour Middle School's winter coat and clothing drive to benefit the Jackson County Clothing Center.
"Last year, my parents weren't working, so we had to go there to get clothes," Jones said of the center. "I just wanted to give back and help somebody else."
Jones knew her younger sister had a lot of clothes she had outgrown.
"My little sister's closet was spewing over with clothes from when she was like 4 years old," Jones told The Tribune . "She's 9 now."
In all, Jones brought in 431 items, enough to put her in third place for most items collected out of the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
"I had four trash bags full and three big boxes, heaping with clothes," she said.
In total, the school collected 10,785 pieces of clothing in just a couple of weeks, far exceeding their goal of 6,800.
Jones said she never dreamed the response would be so good.
"I was surprised at how much we collected," she said.
Joan Roth, director of the clothing center, said she was impressed by the middle school's donation, which filled the center's sorting room from floor to ceiling. All clothing is free to those who need it.
"It will take some time to get everything sorted and put out," she said.
The clothing center has come to rely on Seymour Middle School students to help provide coats for children and adults to keep them warm during the winter months.
But even with the addition of nearly 11,000 pieces of clothing, Roth said the center still needs items to help keep people warm during the winter, including new or gently used coats, mittens and gloves, scarves and hats. There is also a shortage of clothing for young boys, she said.
This year marked the 20th year for the clothing drive, which was started by math teacher Wayne Huddleston as a way for his students to know what it feels like to help others in the hopes that their desire to give back would continue into adulthood.
Huddleston said his goal was twofold.
"(The goal is) to help the less fortunate in Jackson County during the cold winter and to provide the students with an opportunity to experience the joy of helping others in the community," he said. "I hope this project will help these future leaders of Jackson County to recognize opportunities to improve the lives of their fellow citizens."
In the past, students have collected only coats, and in 19 years the school has donated nearly 7,000 coats to the clothing center.
Co-sponsored this year by student government and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the drive was expanded because of the need for more than just coats, teacher Chris Kleber said.
"We were told they were having to turn needy families away because they had run out of coats and clothing," he added. "I think a lot of students took to heart the challenge of looking in their closet and realizing that they had a lot of extra clothing that they did not need. A lot of parents also cleaned out their closets."
Kleber said he hopes students gain a sense of purpose from the project.
"I hope the students realize that they can make a difference in people's lives," he said. "They can help meet the needs of people in our community."
Seventh-grader Payton Miskell said the clothing drive was right up his alley.
He came in sixth place by donating 287 items, most of which he said he got from his grandmother.
"I just like to do these kind of things," he said of helping others.
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