On the right rack

Phoenix High grad's senior project isn't over just because it's summer
Kayla Bradley, who graduated from Phoenix High School this month, started a clothing closet at First Presbyterian Church in Phoenix.Jamie Lusch

PHOENIX — A recent Phoenix High graduate will spend part of her summer focused on maintaining a senior project because it will continue to help the community she grew up in.

The Phoenix Community Clothing Closet, inside the First Presbyterian Church, is the result of a school year's worth of hard work. It's a place where people in need can find clothes, donated by the community, at no charge.

If you go

What: Phoenix Community Clothing Closet

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays for donations and for people who need clothes

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 117 W. Second St.

Of note: The service is in need of clothing for all ages, but especially for school-age children and men

Tasked with figuring out a community project as a senior member of Girl Scouts — and a project for her final year in high school — Phoenix teen Kayla Bradley wanted to find a way to help students as well as people served by the Phoenix Community Kitchen.

A lifelong Girl Scout, the 18-year-old has done volunteer work since her preschool years.

Bradley advertised the effort online and handed out fliers at the food pantry and church advertising the opening of the clothing closet.

"I did a lot of advertising and talked to people to let them know it was going to open so I could let people know who would need to use it and so that people would donate clothes," said Bradley.

"A lot was dropped off at the church, and people in the community really wanted to help out."

Bradley said she has spent more than 50 hours on the project so far and plans to stick with it through the summer at least.

Phoenix resident Tina Schaff, Bradley's mentor for the project, said the teen's strong leadership role, despite her being somewhat shy, ensured the closet's success.

"On opening day, when people got bags of clothes, it was just really beautiful to see it all come together," Schaff said. "The community has been supportive, and there were so many donations. Kayla had a great idea, and she did the project in a way that the church will be able to take it over and keep it going for the community."

First Presbyterian Church elder Paul York helped Bradley paint and set up an upstairs room in the church.

York said the community response to Bradley's project showed how much need there was for clothing for low-income residents.

"People I have dealt with have been extremely surprised that this service is available and that there's no charge. It's done as a shopping experience, which is nice for people who need the clothes," York said.

Bradley, who plans to attend college and become a teacher, said it has been gratifying to see the community response.

She's seen kids getting their first new pair of school shoes, young mothers getting clothes for their children and young adults getting clothes to wear to work or for presentations — such as a senior project at her now alma mater.

"There was one guy who came in and he only had one set of clothes, and so he got a couple new pairs," she said.

"The following Sunday, he wore one of his brand-new outfits to church, so it felt really good to help somebody like that and see it make a difference."

Another story involved a female student who said she'd never had new shoes before Bradley opened her clothing closet.

"She was ecstatic she had shoes that were actually going to fit her," Bradley said. "I just really have loved seeing how people's faces lit up when people were willing to help them."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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