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The organization wants all Lake Oswego kids to feel comfortable and confident in clothes

COURTESY PHOTO: LAKE OSWEGO SCHOOL DISTRICT - iLoveLakeOswego members presenting at the June 18 school board meeting.There is a new resource in the works for families in the Lake Oswego School District, thanks to a recently founded organization called iLoveLakeOswego. The group, made up of middle and high school students from the district, plans to open a clothing closet to benefit families who cannot regularly afford to buy new clothes.

ILoveLakeOswego representatives presented to the school board June 18, where the board enthusiastically agreed to support their mission and help them find space to house the clothing.

The idea for the clothes closet came from LOHS student Ella Fuentes and her mom Leslie. Ella said that she and her mom are members of the National Charity League, along with most of the members of iLoveLakeOswego, and have volunteered at clothing places that provide clothing to families in need. "We were talking to people, and realizing LO didn't have that (resource), but we have two Title 1 schools," she said. "So we started wondering, how do those kids afford clothes?"

Title 1-A is a federal education program under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) 2010. This program provides financial assistance to schools with high numbers or high percentages of low income children to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.

"They began thinking about what it would mean to start their own charity, and got the ball rolling by asking for support from people they knew would be interested in turning their idea into a reality," said incoming LOHS senior Lena Wehn, who manages public relations for iLoveLakeOswego.

Wehn said that despite the appearance of wealth in Lake Oswego, not all residents fit into that stereotype. "While we are fortunate to live in a rather affluent community, there is a serious misconception about the comfort of Lake Oswego on a person-to-person basis. It is part of our mission to change that perception of LO," Wehn said. "That means bringing awareness to the needs of our community, as well as helping diminish those needs by providing new and gently used clothing to students in the district

who may be unable to purchase new clothing themselves."

Providing clothing to those in need goes hand-in-hand with the district's mission of diversity, equity and inclusion, according to Wehn. "While we strive to make everyone equal within our district, we also feel that to be successful you need to feel comfortable in the clothes you wear. It is our goal to bridge that gap for those who struggle financially," she said. "We created iLoveLakeOswego with the goal of helping foster the confidence necessary to have a successful experience at school. We want everyone to feel good about themselves, and that often begins with looking their best. Having clothes that fit, are comfortable, and are in style will support every student in our education system."

Outgoing school board chair Bob Barman agreed at the June 18 meeting. "I feel like this is a gift for my last meeting," Barman said. "Every child should be able to feel welcome, they should be able to have nice clothes."

In addition to creating a sense of belonging, clothing also allows for self-expression — something that can be lost during financial struggles. "Everyone is entitled to the same availability of self expression clothing grants us — we don't want financial burden to hinder that," Wehn said. "We will help anyone in need within the Lake Oswego School District, regardless of circumstances."

Wehn said that iLoveLakeOswego has received its business license, and is currently looking for creative ways to introduce the organization to the community. The group is currently working with the school board to find about 200 square feet for the "closet," where donations will be kept. "The board has enthusiastically agreed to support us, and are currently helping us find space for our closet so we will be able to begin accepting donations from the community," Wehn said. The members of iLoveLakeOswego are working hard to have the closet active by this September.

"We want people to know who we are and what we are doing so donations can start coming in as soon as possible," Wehn said. "Hopefully, by the end of the 2019-20 school year we will have a solid base of donations (both clothing items and monetary) as well as established volunteers and clientele."

Starting in August, iLoveLakeOswego will set up designated drop-off areas for those interested to contribute clothes or monetary donations. Those locations will be listed on their website. Wehn said it would also be helpful for community members to sign up for

the email list on the site, which will be used to gather specific items for families in need.

Families can contact iLoveLakeOswego directly through their website. In the future, said Wehn, they hope to also receive referrals directly from teachers and counselors. She said they also hope to provide personal care products (deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and feminine products) and haircuts from Leslie Fuentes, who is a stylist and owner of 3 local salons.

Families in need can contact iLoveLakeOswego through their website, where you can also find more information about the organization: www.iLoveLakeOswego.com/.


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