WAGENER — Emily Evenson likes to think of the community closet at Cyril B. Busbee Elementary School in Wagener as the “little engine that could.”

The closet chugged along as a small wardrobe and one plastic tub for several years but this year reached full steam, growing into a dedicated room with racks and racks of gently used clothes organized by size and gender for students who need a warm coat or a pair of shoes or socks.

The closet also has shelves of book bags and school supplies and bags of food from Golden Harvest Food Bank for children to take home over the weekend.

All of the items in the closet came from donations from the community and the school's staff and extended family through the spirit of giving.

“We had a lot of community support, a lot of community love, which is amazing, from different churches, community organizations and our own parents, grandparents and staff members,” said Evenson, the school counselor. “There are so many people and so many organizations that help. That's what keeps us being able to continue: the support of other people”

“God bless her. Even my own mama will go to different places and bring me items and help out,” Evenson continued. “So, really, we are all just trying to do the best we can to support each other and make sure these students have what they need. It's a wonderful blessing. It really is.”

Evenson said her job as a school counselor is to advocate for children and their needs.

“I want to help my students be successful in the school environment, and sometimes that means they need necessary things like clothing, even if it's having socks under your tennis shoes,” she said. “If it's a cold, cold morning, you just need a pair of warm socks. It just makes you feel better.

“We're meeting their needs so they're ready to come to school, ready to learn and are happy. I think that's the most important thing. When you're a happy child and you have a full belly and you feel good about what you have on and you feel comfortable, then you're more likely to want to succeed in the classroom and are able to focus better. I try my hardest to help them with that.”

Evenson said it's a “wonderful thing” to see how many and how much people are willing to give.

“They're thinking of the kids,” she said. “I don't know how else to say it. It's just such a blessing as a school community to receive that warm welcome. It's just amazing how much people want to support and want to give.”

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.