WESTFIELD — Westfield High School on Feb. 12 celebrated the grand reopening of its newly refurbished Community Closet, which offers free clothing, personal care items and school supplies to any member of the WHS community who might be in need of them.

“It’s a really exciting day for us,” said WHS Principal Charles Jendrysik. He said he has been working on the Community Closet with a faculty leadership team since he began as principal in 2016, as one of the ways to make the school special.

Jendrysik introduced English teacher Jill Keenan, who was a part of the original team and is a lead facilitator for the program. Keenan said their goal was always to have a space that didn’t have a stigma attached to it, open to anyone in the WHS community.

“There is a ton of foot traffic, and a really comfortable environment for our students,” said Keenan. She said the Community Closet is now more like a boutique, having moved from a room off the cafeteria to the new space, a former audio-visual room.

The new space now has a welcoming entrance painted by the Art Club, new floors, new counters, cabinets and a dressing room. Keenan said the Developmental Language Program also makes sure that all of the clothes and donations are washed and ready to display.

The Community Closet is open every day during the F period, which freshman Chloe Browning said is the second-to-last period of the day, and by appointment as needed.

Browning, who attended the grand reopening, said she frequently goes to the Community Closet. She said the clothes she finds there have more style than the ones in the stores.

Keenan said the plans for the new space were realized with an initial state grant of $5,000 from state Sen. John Velis (D-Westfield), and a lot of help and support from community partners, in particular the Home Depot.

Speaking at the grand opening, Velis thanked the school for including him, but gave credit to his former constituent services aide Marissa Otero, who he said was the person who got him involved in the project.

Otero flew up from Puerto Rico to attend the opening. She now works for Mujeres de Islas, a grassroots nonprofit run by women helping the residents of the island of Culebra develop sustainable projects and businesses. She said working with Velis on the Community Closet was a great jumping off point for her.

“Community is everything,” she said.

Velis said the grant for the Community Closet is in addition to the $1 million grant he obtained for WHS which is being used to refurbish science classrooms, work that will be completed by the end of June.

Keenan said the grant from Velis was the catalyst to move the Community Closet to its present location. She thanked the custodial staff for moving the huge cabinets, and the IT department for moving servers.

She said a year after the initial grant, the Home Depot Foundation came through with a grant of $11,000. She said the hardware store’s donated labor, time and talent are behind the new dressing room, floors, countertops and freshly painted walls.

Home Depot store manager Colton Kennemur thanked operations manager Matt Canty, tool technician James Varney and the Home Depot Foundation for their support of the project.

“I see the passion you have for this. It’s a really great cause,” Kennemur said.

Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski in turn thanked the Home Depot for its support of the Community Closet, and also for its donated work to refurbish the cafeteria in the Westfield Middle School.

Also recognized for her support was Jess Shular-Dunlop, owner of Très Lounge Luxury Salon, who along with her staff partnered with WHS and the Community Closet, collecting donations of personal care and other wish list items over the holidays, which were displayed on a countertop at the grand reopening.

Shular-Dunlop and her staff at Très Lounge, Izabella Gordner, Emily Salzer, Alyssa Brothers, Terri Dintzner and Hannah Blake, all of whom are from Westfield, all attended the event. They said they plan to continue partnering with the Community Closet over the holidays.

amyporter@thewestfieldnews.com | + posts