BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The pandemic has created a financial hardship for many families, whether that be pay cuts, loss of jobs, or even loss of homes, but one high school is trying to lessen the burden by providing students and their families with supplies that have been donated by the community.
According to Natasha Martinez, who is the organizer behind Blade Closet, since the pandemic, they have seen an increase of students and families needing some extra help, which is why they are asking the community for donations.
"Blade Closet originated as a resource to provide immediate need to homeless, unaccompanied, or disadvantaged youth, basically, anyone who was in need," said social worker Natasha Martinez.
Natasha Martinez, a social worker at East Bakersfield High, created Blade Closet as a way to give students the help that they needed. About 87% of the school population is considered below the poverty line.
"The goal was to create something where there isn't all of that red tape and we can just immediately provide regardless of what that student qualifies for," said Martinez.
Before the pandemic, Blade Closet was simply a closet, which allowed students to go in, no questions asked, and grab what they needed, but now that school is online, it made it difficult to support students who were struggling, but that hasn't stopped Martinez from getting families the help that they need.
"Now it is based on having the kids tell us what they need or us seeking out families and saying, 'okay, what can we help you with? What do we have'" added Martinez.
Before the pandemic, the project was helping around 100 students, now with the pandemic, Martinez says between 300 to 400 students and their families need help with more than just basic supplies.
"We have a lot of families who are either homeless or transient or are moving place to place and don't always have a stable bed and so that became a large need for us," said Martinez.
The high school is always accepting donations for the closet, such as hygiene products, clothes, gift cards, food, even items like mattresses, as well as monetary donations.
"The closet to me is an extension of that family, I think when you have a philosophy that you are going to operate as a family then you need to look out for everybody in your family and do what you can to make sure that the people in your family who are struggling, have an opportunity to thrive and have their needs met," said Leo Holland, principal of East Bakersfield High.
Martinez told 23ABC this project has not only helped so many within the East Bakersfield High family but the community's generosity has been a positive experience not only for the students in need but school staff as well.
"Consistency is tough and if we can just make it a little bit easier while they're not here, I mean I feel like that is just the least we can do," said Martinez.
To donate to the closet, contact Natasha Martinez at (661) 871-7221 ext. 72040 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.