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Community Helps Care Closet
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OHS grandparent Pete Gianfermo, left, drops off a few bags of clothing on Jan. 9 with Dana Hernandez in the counseling office for the schools Care Closet. Dawn M. Henley/The Leader

A last minute call out just before Oakdale High School’s Christmas break resulted in the community showing up with donations of food, clothing, and gifts for underprivileged students who are served through the school’s Care Closet, just in time for the holidays.

“I had nothing (before the break), only 12 cans of food and some Cup o’ Noodles. That’s it,” recalled Dana Hernandez, counseling office secretary and manager of Veronica’s Care Closet on campus.

She said six students were sponsored for Christmas gifts, 20 local grocery store gift cards were donated by individuals, St. Mary’s Catholic Church brought gift boxes for several boys and girls, Girl Scout Troop #2248 also donated a number of items. Hernandez said one couple walked into the counseling office with a $100 bill and a package of socks for the Care Closet, and there were a number of food donations. Just before Christmas, the Oakdale Rotary donated several backpacks full of school supplies, as well as $2,500 for the Care Closet fund which enables Hernandez to purchase PE clothes and sweats for a lot of the kids. She said they are okay on clothes right now. The large donation of school supplies will last for a while, too.

Hernandez was amazed by the outpouring and generosity of the community.

“One lady came in and brought over 20 gift bags with candy canes, a $25 gift certificate for Denny’s and a $25 gift certificate for Save Mart – in each one,” Hernandez said.

With the donations, Hernandez said they were able to help out 40 students at Christmas time. She added that a number of the underprivileged students come from large families, so the donations not only help the individual student but also their whole family.

On Jan. 9, OHS grandparent Pete Gianfermo walked into the counseling office with several bags of clothing for boys and girls to donate to the Care Closet. Hernandez said he comes in every few weeks.

“My motivation is to help people that need help,” Gianfermo said. “It’s my way of charity. Some charity is passive. I like this because I have the contact with people here and can see they appreciate it.”

While they community really stepped up before the holidays, the needs are ongoing and there are still some voids in the Care Closet that need filling. Hernandez said for food, the Closet is about half full right now. She said they still need items such as Hamburger Helper or other similar boxed meal products, macaroni and cheese, pastas, pasta sauce, canned vegetables, and canned soups.

Since she gave out all the grocery store gift cards prior to Christmas, the Care Closet is in need of more of them. Hernandez noted that $10 and $25 increments are best because a person could buy hamburger, bread, and milk for $10, but also noted that some kids have large families so a $25 card may work better in those cases.

The hygiene items are about half stocked at this time, too. She said they need deodorant now because that’s an item that goes quickly, and they also need more soap and shampoo. She added that a local dentist donated a number of toothbrushes and toothpastes, so they’re currently well-stocked on those items.

To donate to the Care Closet or for more information, contact Hernandez in the OHS counseling office on her direct line at 848-7111 or e-mail her at