Note in the Pocket sends message of caring

Note in the Pocket collects clothing for students in Wake County whose families struggle with necessities. Each donated bag of clothes is topped with a note that says “You are loved.”
Note in the Pocket collects clothing for students in Wake County whose families struggle with necessities. Each donated bag of clothes is topped with a note that says “You are loved.” NOTE IN THE POCKET

It’s short and sweet: “You are loved.”

Note in the Pocket places this simple message atop each bag of clothing it provides for children in need. School social workers say they have witnessed kids proudly wearing this note taped to their new clothes in school hallways.

In 2013, Note in the Pocket provided more than 28,000 gently used or new pieces of clothing to more than 1,550 people, mostly children, in Wake County. Each bag of clothing contains approximately two weeks’ worth of outfits that can be mixed and matched, including shoes, new socks and underwear, and outerwear.

To identify students in need of its services, Note in the Pocket works with social workers, homeless and transitional housing agencies, and other programs that support families in financial crisis.

Last school year, 48,881 Wake County students applied and qualified for free or reduced-price lunch, and many of those families have tight or nonexistent clothing budgets, too.

“There is an undeniable parallel that families that struggle to feed their children also struggle to provide basic clothing needs,” said Note in the Pocket Executive Director Dallas Bonavita.

Note in the Pocket’s work is based on its belief, as put forth in its mission statement, “that it is unacceptable that children are limited in their educational and social development because they do not have appropriate clothes for school.”

The group began in 2005 as a family ministry to supply winter coats to one kindergarten class in an elementary school where the percentage of free-and-reduced lunch students hovered around 90 percent. Word of mouth and active recruitment led to an annual schoolwide coat distribution. By September 2011, the incoming donations included clothing for all seasons and of all sizes, and outgoing donations were made on an ad hoc basis as specific needs became known. The program was operated informally out of founder Susan Reiland’s home in Raleigh until spring 2012, when it had undeniably outgrown that space.

The project got its name and became an official ministry of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Raleigh in June 2012 and was registered as a 501(c)(3) organization.

“Note in the Pocket went from a small, heart-filled program to a countywide agency seemingly overnight,” Bonavita said.

Note in the Pocket’s reach continues to grow, but its mission does not, she said.

“I’m frequently asked if we have any new programs that we will be adding,” Bonavita said. “I’m very proud to say that we do not. We are very proud of our tight mission. We provide clothes, and clothes only, and we do it well.”

Operations Director Michele Boyce attributes this success to the group’s volunteers, who coordinate clothing drives; pick up and deliver donations; and sort, label and shelve the garments.

“Everything from coming to the Volunteer Center to sort clothing to delivery to schools and all those things that you don’t see – like the person who painted our space, or the person who drops off the crocheted scarves she makes, or the 6-year-old boy who collected socks and underwear for us instead of having kids bringing him birthday presents – this is what makes Note work,” Boyce said, “the people.”

Kelly Kindt of Raleigh, a former teacher who has volunteered each week for the past year, said: “I knew the first time I came I’d be back. ... I know that I am helping kids in need.”

Even though schools take a break over the holidays, the needs of some of their students continue.

“Needs don’t change with the holidays,” Boyce said. “Pants, shirts, underwear, shoes and socks – the things most of us take for granted, this is what we need for these children and families of Wake County.” Storage and organization supplies are also needed, she said.

For a current list of drop-off locations and most crucial needs, visit www.noteinthepocket.org or call 919-714-9403.