Oakdale High School’s “Care Closet” fills needs that underprivileged students have for clothing, food, and hygiene items. Now, it has been renamed as “Veronica’s Care Closet.”
“This change was due to our Special Ed teacher (Veronica Patron) that passed away at the beginning of the year who was a caring person and always gave to the unfortunate,” said Care Closet coordinator and counseling office secretary Dana Hernandez.
Hernandez added that sometimes Patron would take her lunch and give it to a student if they needed it. She added that staff felt it was a fitting way to honor Patron by naming the Care Closet after her.
“She was a great inspiration to all of us,” Hernandez said. “She was a great person. She was really lively. She was always caring.”
Some students who are served by Veronica’s Care Closet are in homes that are combined, multi-generation households, while others are homeless. Right now, Hernandez said that the closet is in need of being stocked with more non-perishable food items such as spaghetti sauce, noodles, peanut butter, jelly, macaroni and cheese, canned soups, canned vegetables, and items like Cup-O-Soup and Hamburger Helper.
She added that grocery store gift cards in $10 increments are also very helpful because they can be given to a student so their family can buy a gallon of milk and a couple of pounds of hamburger.
Hernandez reported that at the beginning of the school year, Veronica’s Care Closet needs more school supplies, backpacks, and PE clothes to get the underprivileged students off on the right foot. In the winter months, it’s a little different.
She said that it’s difficult for the families of the needy students to just get by to provide regular meals. She said they don’t have the money to have full Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. She noted that in the past a grocery store has given away a free turkey around Thanksgiving if the shopper spent $100 in groceries, but these students’ families don’t have enough money to buy a turkey and they don’t spend $100 at the grocery store either.
Hernandez said that at this time the closet is fairly well stocked on some items, but there are a few other needs. For one, since it’s getting cold outside, sweatshirts and sweatpants are needed for PE. Also, they are well stocked with trial-size and travel-size hygiene items, but they need some regular size deodorants, shampoos, and conditioners as well.
She said that along with gift cards to the grocery store, also helpful are those to office supply stores, or Target, or Kmart. With the exception of the grocery cards, Hernandez takes the gift cards and uses them to stock Veronica’s Care Closet with school supplies, which are an ongoing need, and a few other items.
Over the past couple of years, the high school has been seeing a greater number of students utilizing the closet and using it more frequently. Hernandez said that although the high school doesn’t track the students they serve, she said the numbers that go through the closet per month is in the neighborhood of 30 to about 50 students. She noted that the numbers change because the needs vary during different times of the school year.
Patron was a schoolteacher for Oakdale Joint Unified School District for 24 years. She died Aug. 9 at Oak Valley Hospital after being found unconscious in her classroom at OHS just two days prior to the start of school.
She was a SDC (Special Day Class) special education teacher and taught learning handicapped students for the last 10 years at OHS. She had previously taught special education at Oakdale Junior High School. Known as being a world traveler who frequently stayed with and helped the locals, she was also known as a vivacious, friendly, and outgoing person.
The Care Closet was started in the 2001-2002 school year by OHS counselor John Arsenio who got the idea when he worked at Escalon’s high school.
For individuals or businesses that would like to donate to Veronica’s Care Closet, contact Dana Hernandez directly in the OHS counseling office at (209) 848-7111.