Hornet Closet

The Hornet Closet at Haines City High School, left, offers items such as backpacks, clothes and hygiene products at no charge for students who need them. The project was spearheaded by Morgan Hammett, right, the IB Resource Specialist at the school.

HAINES CITY – When a Haines City High School staff member saw a need, she acted.

Morgan Hammett, the IB Resource Specialist at the school, had noticed how some students wore the same clothes day after day, carried stacks of books because they didn’t have a backpack and sometimes needed hygiene items or seasonal outerwear.

So, with permission and encouragement from Principal Adam Lane, Hammett spearheaded and set up a “Hornet Closet” in available space located in the school’s media center. In August, she began collecting donations and, by December, she’d collected enough to open.

“Mr. Lane quickly found a spot for the store and since then I’ve received something for it almost every day,” she said.

Hammett makes sure that the donated items are age appropriate, meet dress code standards and are in good condition. In addition to clothes and shoes, students may choose from available bookbags, school supplies, hygiene items, purses, and special occasion pieces like prom dresses.

Many people have donated gift cards for Hammett to make needed purchases and some stores have donated gift cards, as well.

Students aren’t required to meet a certain criteria or otherwise qualify for help. Instead, they only must ask either Hammett or their guidance counselors, who will then take them to the Closet. They are afforded the opportunity to “shop” in the Closet and choose as many items as they’d like, within reason.

“For example, they can’t come in every day and take a book bag,” Hammett said.

Since last month, about 20 students have benefitted from the Closet.

Since more than 24 percent of Haines City’s overall population lives below the poverty line (for reference, a family of four making $26,200 and below is considered to live in poverty), it stands to reason that many of the 3,000 students at Haines City High School may require help in some way. The school is the largest high school in Polk County.

“I definitely see a need and want this Closet to continue to grow,” Hammett said.

She said that she’d like to eventually offer only new items and a laundry facility for the students.

To donate or for more information on getting involved to help, email morgan.hammett@polk-fl.net or call 863.421.3281 (Extension 436).

Items may also be dropped off at the school office.