Lyon College opens "Free Store" for students in need

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – When temperatures fell this winter, an idea took root at Lyon College, as the faculty noticed students wearing inappropriate clothing for the winter weather.

"You know, college students often have a different way of dressing," Jennifer Hidy-Pitts said. "It seemed like it was getting colder, and people weren't dressing appropriately."

Hidy-Pitts works as an administrative assistant in Lyon's Student Life Office. She says she really took notice of what students were wearing during the weeks before winter break when she would see students on campus wearing shorts in the cold.

She started discussing the issue with her faculty members. They figured students either chose to dress unseasonably by choice, or perhaps they put off spending on necessities to pay for increasing tuition, books and meals. That's when the idea for the "Free Store" was created.

Hidy-Pitts sent out an email, asking if students needed winter necessities, like a coat or a scarf. That sparked her to get donations from her fellow faculty members, donations that have yet to stop coming.

"Everyone that I talked to talked about that they liked giving things back and that it meant more to them for it to stay here on campus and help the students out," Hidy-Pitts noted. "That's where our heart is anyway and so, to help students, that feels really great."

The response, she says, was overwhelming. The initial office used to store the donations became too crowded for the amount pouring in, so the Free Store was recently relocated to a dressing room on the second floor of Brown Chapel.

"Everything is completely free," Hidy-Pitts explained, "take what you want, take what you like, take as much as you would like – no question."

The Free Store also houses the jeans closet for the campus-wide weight loss program, the Biggest Winner, as well as the professional clothing closet from the Career Development Office.

"Money's tight," senior Amber Simpson said, "and tuition is only going to go up across the country, and Lyon too, so saving money is definitely a great thing."

Simpson says the Free Store may allow students on tight budgets to shop for clothing at no cost, but she says it ties into the campus' effort to be more sustainable and live lighter on the Earth.

"Instead of going out and buying new clothes that use new resources to create, why wouldn't you go get clothes that have just been used gently?" Simpson said. "You don't have to spend any money, and you're saving the Earth."

The Free Store is open from 2 to 4 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. To donate any items to the Free Store, contact Jennifer Hidy-Pitts at jennifer.pitts@lyon.edu for more information.

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