PHOENIX — At first, Katrina Conley thought she was simply cleaning out her closet and donating clothes to a local shelter. But, after word got out, her efforts have grown larger than she imagined and others have been inspired to help.
Conley lives in Ahwatukee and teaches fourth grade at Estrella Foothills Global Academy in Laveen. In the evenings, she works as a server at Outback Steakhouse.
"I'll come to school and work here until about 3:30. Some days I have tutoring after school or teacher meetings, then I have about 10 minutes when I get home to change and say 'hi' to my dogs and then run over to the restaurant," she told ABC15.
It can be an exhausting schedule, but she makes it works. And yet, she still found a little extra time to help others.
"I was just cleaning out my closet one day and I realized how many clothes I have, and a lot of them I wanted to try to give back more locally," she said.
She decided to organize a donation drive for UMOM New Day Centers, the Phoenix nonprofit that provides shelter, housing, and other resources for people, including families, experiencing homelessness.
"I figured between both jobs and my friends and family, that I see enough people every single day that if I just asked everybody to bring something, I'd have enough to make a difference," she said.
She posted about her efforts on social media with a lift from UMOM about items they need, such as clothing, personal hygiene items, and cleaning supplies.
Less than a week later, she said she's received donations from more than people 50 and word is more donations are on the way.
"I have over 30 bags full of clothes, a full suitcase, a full box; my living room is starting to fill up and I'm only halfway through," she said, adding that it's been overwhelming in the best way.
At time same thing, it offers a positive learning lesson for her students outside of a textbook.
"One thing that I preach to them all the time is spreading kindness and building community and then I realized I could be doing to practice what I preach, and it feels really good to set that example for them," she said.
Conley is collecting items until April 11 and will then donate them to UMOM. To contribute, you can contact her at KatrinaMConley@gmail.com.