Catie’s Closet seeing double the need for clothing for students living in poverty

DRACUT — Many of the shelves are bare or nearly empty inside the distribution center of Catie’s Closet in Dracut.

The nonprofit was named in honor of Catie Bisson, a Lowell High School graduate, who died in 2010 at age 20 from a rare disease.

The nonprofit helps provide clothing and basic necessities to more than 50,000 students living in poverty. They operate in 90 schools in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, including in 25 in Boston Public Schools.

“All the kids outgrew their clothes in the spring well before the pandemic and now families are finding themselves without the economic ability, without the financial ability to replenish that clothes,” said Catie’s Closet CEO and co-founder, Mickey Cockrell.

Here’s how it works: an unused room in a school is converted into a Catie’s Closet. Students are then given access to the closet by a trusted faculty member where they can shop discreetly, for free, for clothing and toiletries.

“These stores are like little Old Navy’s in their school, so they have free range to shop for themselves and pick what they need and represent their own style and their own confidence,” Cockrell said

Even though many children are learning remotely, the demand for clothing is still huge.

Catie’s Closet is seeing a 100% increase in need than they did pre-pandemic. Cockrell said many of the schools they are in report that one of the toughest things they have right now is to get the kids to turn the camera on.

“It’s embarrassing for these kids not to be seen on a camera, not having what they need in clothes that are ill-fitting still wearing their pajamas, not able to just feel like they can just compete with anyone else on that screen,” she said.

Catie’s Closet plans to open in five more schools in the next 30 days and in 35 more across Massachusetts in the next 12 months.

If you are interested in donating, you can find information here.