MANCHESTER, NH – McDonough Elementary School teacher DeLorie Belanger has regularly purchased shoes, boots and other clothing essentials for her students in need throughout the years. Then one day, not even a month into the school year, she noticed one boy who was wearing a pair of shoes that were falling apart. Belanger gave the boy her own son’s sneakers to replace them.
“After that experience, I felt like I should do something more,” said Belanger. “Many of the teachers I know purchase items for students, and the cost adds up quickly. If there were a way to collect donations, we could help more children.”
Belanger asked her husband, Lee Belanger, if she could use his office as a drop-off site and then went to Facebook for help, posting a request for gently used coats and shoes on a yard sale page. The response was immediate.
“Within an hour, dozens of people were offering to give and sharing my post to help spread the word,” said Belanger.
Soon, donations were being dropped off daily, and Belanger spent her evenings washing coats and disinfecting shoes. McDonough’s principal, Ken DiBenedetto, gladly supported the project and allowed Belanger to use a large closet at school to store the donations. But there were no shelves, clothing racks or hangers. That’s when a Manchester store stepped in.
Adam Tessier from The Home Depot on March Avenue in Manchester donated manpower and materials to install wardrobe rods in the closet. The store also offered, free of charge, dozens of coat hangers, as well as 20 totes for shoes, gloves, mittens and scarves. Now any teacher at McDonough has access to items in the closet to give to their students in need.
As the cold weather approaches, Belanger is hoping to fill the closet with new or gently used winter coats and boots. Her hope is that she will not only be able to meet the needs of the students at McDonough but offer items to other Manchester schools as well. Any Manchester educators can email Belanger to make a request for students. If the items are available, Belanger will make sure those students get them.
Anyone who wishes to donate gently used or new coats, boots, socks and other winter accessories for children ages 5-11 can bring them to the Allstate insurance office at 1181 Hanover St., in Manchester.