Ann E’s Closet Debuts at Deer Valley Middle School
By Alison Bailin -
Friday Jan 26, 2024
On Jan. 20, Deer Valley Unified School District (DVUSD) came together with partners CHASSE Building Team, Grand Canyon University CityServe, and Callahan Cares to unveil Ann E’s Closet at Deer Valley Middle School. Members of the community and families in the district were welcomed for the first time into the “closet,” which sits in a large, renovated computer lab at the entrance of the school. With the help of volunteer assistants and private fitting rooms, this re-imagined and re-designed space will serve as a safe place for families in the district to get the necessary clothing, shoes, food, toiletries, and other items that they otherwise may not have, all at no charge.
Ann E’s Closet is named to honor current DVUSD School Board President, Ann Ordway, who introduced the district to the concept nearly two decades ago.
“The concept for this giving closet – our second in the district – started with Ms. Ordway more than 18 years ago, prior to her joining the board some 16 years ago,” said Dr. Curtis Finch, Deer Valley Unified School District Superintendent. “Initially, she and a friend were picking up prom dresses and formal attire for students to wear during middle and high school events, and the idea has morphed into wrap-around options for students including shoes, toiletries, day-to-day clothes, and more.”
According to Dr. Finch, this concept of giving grew with items being donated from fellow students as well as “fairy godmothers” and “fairy godfathers,” which were nicknames given to local community members who had joined the effort to tirelessly collect items over the years.
“Ms. Ordway originally kept donations in her garage, distributing them to kids in need from her car throughout the North Valley. She eventually began working with Barry Goldwater High School counselors to expand the program,” said Dr. Finch. “This resulted in the first-ever Giving Closet, which opened at Goldwater High School in 2023 in partnership with Toll Brothers and Younger Brothers, thanks in great part to a connection through the school’s Phoenix Police Resource Officer, Valerie Rhodes.”
When long-time DVUSD partners, CHASSE Building Team, heard of the Giving Closet, they jumped at the chance to expand it in a big way. Working to create Ann E’s Closet at Deer Valley Middle School over the past several months, CHASSE Building Team, European Techniques, EF Charles, and AZ Neighbors donated materials and volunteered time to take the concept from paper to reality.
“We are a locally owned and operated business that has been working with schools since our inception. Given our mission is “building to make a difference,” we jumped in headfirst to help make Ann E’s Closet a reality,” said Connor Lewis, Project Manager at CHASSE Building Team.
In advance of the re-design, Dr. Finch worked with Grand Canyon University CityServe, which mobilizes resources and collaborative partnerships to provide life-transformational solutions to families and individuals in need, expanding the program beyond clothing and food essentials.
“From there, we moved at lightning speed. When I was first approached about a student closet and pantry opening on my campus, I had no idea this would be the final result,” said Ray Utter, Deer Valley Middle School Principal. “What this will provide for our students and families at Deer Valley Middle School is hard to put into words. It shows that our students and community are supported and cared about, and I know it will make a positive impact on our Deer Valley Middle School community for years to come.”
DVUSD has plans to expand these closets and pantries, focusing on adding giving closets and pantries its five high schools over the next decade.