Annual Clothing Drive Seen as Part of the Job for Des Moines ESL Teachers

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

The Karen Acres Elementary School’s 16th Annual ESL Clothing Drive has been a tremendous success in each of the years that it has been held, but this year was one for the record books, according to event organizers Alissa Morrison and Annie Jordan, ESL teachers at Urbandale Middle School and Jensen Elementary School, respectively, both in Des Moines, Iowa. More than 350 boxes of clothing and other essentials were collected during the summer break this year with over 300 boxes of clean clothing being given to ESL families earlier this month.

The annual clothing drive was started in 1998 by Kristin Pawlowski during her first year as an ESL teacher at Karen Acres Elementary. According to Morrison and Jordan, they derived inspiration from Pawlowski in taking charge of the clothing drive and said that they were just trying “to be like her” in conducting what they see as an important volunteer activity for the ESL students at Karen Acres, their families, and the entire Des Moines community. Pawlowski initiated the event back in the late 1990s when she sent an email to her friends and colleagues about her desire to collect clothing items for her ESL students and their families.

Those she sent that email to responded by sending her more than 50 boxes of clothing and essentials to distribute to students and families. At that time, the ESL community in Des Moines was mostly from Bosnia. Over the years since then, however, it has come to include an abundance of African and Hispanic families as well. Morrison’s and Jordan’s students and their families have expressed overwhelming gratitude to the two for their dedication to the clothing drive and their effort in making it such a success for those in need. “Teaching English as a second language,” Jordan said, “sometimes goes beyond just teaching English as a second language.”