Valley Parents: Lebanon High’s Council Closet provides formal wear to students

From left, student council members Seth Kelly, 17, looks on as Helena Mielcarz, 15, and Kalyani Jogdand, 14, look at a dress donated by Mielcarz to the Council Closet, a lending library of formal clothing available to students for dances and other events, in the library at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. The students said they hope the closet will make formal events more accessible and inclusive for their peers. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From left, student council members Seth Kelly, 17, looks on as Helena Mielcarz, 15, and Kalyani Jogdand, 14, look at a dress donated by Mielcarz to the Council Closet, a lending library of formal clothing available to students for dances and other events, in the library at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. The students said they hope the closet will make formal events more accessible and inclusive for their peers. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america — Alex Driehaus

Student council members meet in the library at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Members of the PR and spirit committees teamed up to organize the Council Closet, the high school’s first lending library of formal clothing. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Student council members meet in the library at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Members of the PR and spirit committees teamed up to organize the Council Closet, the high school’s first lending library of formal clothing. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

A poster requesting donations of formal and semi-formal clothing for the Council Closet hangs on a bulletin board in the hallway at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Donations can be dropped off in the library, and student council members hope to expand their range of available dress sizes and men’s clothing. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

A poster requesting donations of formal and semi-formal clothing for the Council Closet hangs on a bulletin board in the hallway at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Donations can be dropped off in the library, and student council members hope to expand their range of available dress sizes and men’s clothing. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america — Alex Driehaus

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 05-28-2024 11:11 AM

LEBANON — See a need. Fill a need.

That is the idea behind the Council Closet,

started by Lebanon High School Student Council members earlier this year.

In January, while planning a high school dance for the end of March, council members were thinking of ways to ensure that everyone who wanted to attend could, student council members Helena Mielcarz and Kalyani Jogdand said.

“We decided to start the Council Closet so people could take out a dress from the library rather than have to buy a new dress,” Mielcarz, a sophomore, said.

“We didn’t want people not to go because they didn’t have an outfit. That has been a struggle for some in the past with prom and homecoming.”

Jogdand, a freshman, said when she started high school last fall she noticed a number of students who were not able to afford some school supplies and were asking their teachers.

“I thought, ‘if they can’t get school supplies, how can they get a nice dress for dances and other important events?’ ” Jogdand said.

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Students hung posters around the school announcing the Council Closet and seeking donations. A rack was set up in the library when dresses started arriving in March. Another box of 10 previously donated dresses were added to the rack, which led to around 20 items for students to choose from.

“We also got a ties donated, some dress pants and a blazer,” Mielcarz said. “We have prom dresses and clothing for something like a job interview.”

To make it easier for students to know what is available, Mielcarz said they sanitized the clothing, then categorized the items and put them in the library’s system with a picture, description and size.

“This lets the students look at items from home and they can go through each one and pick what they want,” she said. “Students can come in and take whatever they need.”

The students were not certain of how many borrowed a piece of clothing from the Council Closet so far, but did say there is a Shakespeare class that will use some of them for costumes in an upcoming show. Both students said it will take some time to make people aware of the closet and build up the variety of inventory.

“We are going to try to promote it more for any occasion,” Mielcarz said. “We also want to get more than dresses. We want to have more masculine clothing suits, pants and dress shoes but also accessories.”

Mielcarz said she posts information about the closet on the student council’s Instagram account.

Jogdand said she has had friends donate some items and knows of some students who borrowed clothing. Those personal experiences have led to more word-of-mouth exposure.

“That really helps us promote it,” she said.

The council also started a program to give away tickets to dances to students who cannot afford them in an effort to be as inclusive as possible, Mielcarz said.

“We want as many people going to these events as possible,” she said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.