MESA, AZ — It started as a closet filled with piles of clothes. But today, a portable tucked behind Jefferson Elementary School in the Mesa Public School District has transformed into a stylish clothing boutique.
"It was a dream of mine probably about eight years ago," said Principal Genessee Montes.
Montes says some of her students were coming to school with clothes that didn't fit or needed to be washed.
"We had kids living in cars and so we were having to clothe them," she said. "We were having to put together outfits for them... and just kind of tossing things at them of what we can, you know, scrounge up."
But getting a box of stuff out of a dark room was not nearly as inviting. So, Montes set out to create a more welcoming space.
"They can come, and they can really just shop and shop for free," Montes said.
From the decorations to the paint on the walls, nearly every little detail is a donation from members of the community.
It's something Gaye Kelley, the board president of the Mesa Public Schools Foundation, worked tirelessly to retrieve. Marlo Loria, director of CTE and Innovative Partnerships at the Mesa Public School District, worked side by side with Kelley before she passed away from COVID-19 earlier this year.
"Gaye lived her life to serve her community and it's fitting that her last act of service before she got ill was serving her community," said Loria. "The fact that she wasn't able to see the final product because it wasn't quite done yet, it's really hard. But I know she's here in spirit."
A photo of Kelley, with a smile, now greets every child who enters the boutique. It's a reminder that with the help of the community, anyone can succeed if given the right supplies and the proper outfit.
"We know kids learn best when they feel their best," said Montes. "We saw a need and so when you see need you just step up and fill that need."
Montes says they can always use more donations. If you would like to help, just contact Jefferson Elementary School in the Mesa Public School District.