BURTON, Ohio — With back-to-school excitement now in full swing, many students are heading to class in fresh new clothing. However, we know that sadly, that's not the case for every child in Northeast Ohio.
"It shouldn't be so hard to put clothes on your kids if you are in need," said Kristin Wiser.
When COVID-19 severed a vital connection in her community, Wiser stepped up to keep a clothing closet, called the Shire Shack, up and running.
“You see a lot of kids that are in need," said Wiser.
The idea, which began in the Berkshire School District, eventually found its way to Wiser’s property when learning went remote.
"I used to be 40-60 hours a week out in my pole barn by myself. There was no heat, there was no air conditioning and they didn't care, they still needed it," said Wiser.
A flood of donations from all over Northeast Ohio and beyond attracted hundreds of people to Wiser’s home.
"We get underwear, shoes, socks, sports equipment, you name it. More people were showing up outside of my planned schedules," said Wiser.
It was then the former retail worker knew she needed to make a change.
"I was concerned that if she didn't have it anymore, we wouldn't be able to supply the kids with what they need," said Lauren Luoma.
That's when Luoma, a volunteer at the Shire Shack, mentioned a 2,000 sq. ft. storefront in Burton.
"It seems like a miracle," said Wiser.
MSI Discovery, a non-profit organization that helps individuals with disabilities, is donating the space.
"I'm happy this is here," said Luoma.
Luoma, a mother of five, often brings her children to help out in the store.
"My kids always say see a need, fill a need, mom. I love that saying so much, and I think that's what we're doing," said Luoma.
The proof, she said, is always on the faces of the boys and girls that stop by every day.
"When a kid comes in they're like, 'This is all free? I can just shop? I can pick out things myself?' I haven't seen kids more happy than that," said Luoma.
The gently-used clothing they go home with brings joy, even when it’s the most basic of necessities.
"When we had brand new packaged undergarments, the kids would get excited about that," said Wiser.
Wiser's hope for the future is to grow and open more access for families in need.
"You start helping them shop and those kids are in heaven, and that, to me, is what it's all about," said Wiser.
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