2005-2011: A Teacher’s Vision to Make a Difference, One Student at a Time
In 2005, a recent college graduate (we’ll call her Margaret) began her dream job—teaching kindergarten to an underserved population in an impoverished school. With a student population beset with all the problems commonly associated with poverty, she quickly realized that her training had not addressed the realities of teaching students who were struggling mightily outside the classroom. Margaret shared her concerns with her mother (we’ll call her Susan). Together, they decided that they would focus on providing one basic need—the lack of seasonally appropriate clothing for school. It was late September and Margaret had noticed that many of the children did not seem to have sweaters or jackets. What would they do when it got really cold?
Margaret and Susan purchased coats from store sales and thrift shops, and Margaret was able to send a coat home with each child in her class before the temperature dropped to below freezing. The next day, some of the coats were returned. It never occurred to some of these families that the coat was a gift for the child to keep. The school’s social worker prepared a note explaining that the coats were donations from the community. A copy of the note was then inserted into the pocket of each item.
Things quickly snowballed as others learned of their generosity. The following year, each Kindergarten-aged child in Margaret’s school was given a coat. By the third year, they were able to provide a coat for each child in the entire school. What started as a one-family ministry in a single classroom in a single school has now spread to our entire community. A simple “Note in the Pocket” can have an immeasurable impact on the life of a child when it conveys a powerful message—you are loved.
“What started as a one-family ministry in a single classroom in a single school has now spread to our entire community.”
2011-2019: Official Nonprofit Status and a New Executive Director
In August 2011, Dallas Bonavita saw an announcement in her church bulletin requesting coat donations for the upcoming fall. She met with Susan, listened to her story, and began envisioning a model for continuous but controlled incoming donations and outgoing clothing packages. Following a highly successful summer clothing drive, she recognized that the greatest immediate need was for more storage space than Susan’s house could accommodate. Within a few weeks, she secured an offer from North Raleigh Ministries to use a small classroom in their crisis center. This is where they operated until a philanthropic businessman kindly offered a larger space.
In the spring of 2012, Note in the Pocket became an official ministry under the auspices of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, which meant that donors could receive tax benefits from clothing and monetary donations. In the meantime, we applied for our own nonprofit status, which was granted in August 2013. Dallas was then named Executive Director, and we have experienced tremendous growth in every subsequent year. For current impact numbers see our Annual Report.
Our Vision for the Future: New Partnerships, Continued Growth
Note in the Pocket now works with Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) social workers and case managers from 12 other agencies, including Family Promise of Wake County (formerly Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network), The Salvation Army, The Carying Place, and Communities in Schools, that serve the homeless and impoverished. Our future plans include increasing our community support through item-specific, high-quality, school-appropriate clothing donations, volunteer manpower, and funding to support the operation and growth of our program in an effort to continue to reach a greater number of individuals each year. We are also working toward building clothing distribution centers to help increase our impact in Southern and Eastern Wake, while developing a clothing distribution model that can eventually be replicated in other counties in North Carolina and perhaps, one day, nationally.