At the end of a second-story hallway at Mineral County High School, parent Tonya Walker stands at the helm of the newly converted classroom into what is now known as Sierra’s Closet. Inside, racks are full of shimmering, gently-used prom dresses, slacks, sweaters, and other apparel. Along the walls, shelves hold shoes, jewelry, ties, purses, backpacks, and other accessories that are free of charge for anyone who needs them.
Walker started Sierra’s Closet right before the pandemic hit, causing her new project to go dark due to the subsequent shutdowns. However, she had the idea of launching Sierra’s Closet back in pre-pandemic times, when she found out that a little girl who wanted to take part in Hawthorne’s annual Armed Forces Day pageant ran into a barrier that was keeping her from doing so.
“I asked on Facebook why girls weren’t participating in the pageant [before the last Armed Forces Day] and one parent wrote me back and said that her little girl wanted to enter the pageant but didn’t have enough money for a dress,” she recalls.
Walker herself has four daughters (two of them have participated in the Armed Forces Day pageant) and usually the dresses are only worn once or twice before they sit in a closet for the rest of their lifetime. Therefore, when Walker realized that high school students or other kids in town might be missing out on events because they didn’t have the right clothing, she made it her mission to do whatever it takes to help local kids look good for whatever event they may want to attend.
In pre-pandemic times, Tonya’s oldest daughter Sierra attended a high school in Idaho that had a classroom dedicated to something like this-a classroom that held clothing that her fellow students could borrow for dances, job interviews, etc. Tonya realized that the idea could work for Hawthorne, and MCHS Principal Jeff Wales collaborated with her to launch Sierra’s Closet.
Tonya says, “We started talking about this and then I heard of a junior high girl who wanted to go to a dance, but she was in tears because she looked for three hours for something to wear. Another parent said that her son tried to go to a job interview, but he didn’t have a proper dress shirt. It makes kids more confident to be dressed appropriately…if you look good you feel good, so it’s important to have the right clothes to wear for whatever occasion”.
As she got more involved in launching Sierra’s Closet, Tonya realized that there are a lot of parents in town trying to dress their kids for special events.
“It costs one hundred dollars for a pair of girls basketball shoes that they’ll likely outgrow in a year…why not get something like that here?” Tonya questions, mentioning that Sierra’s Closet currently has five pairs of boys’ basketball shoes in stock. Sierra’s Closet is also likely to have Halloween costumes, sportswear, anything that kids need or want, so they can save their money for something else.
And if Sierra’s Closet doesn’t have what a student is looking for, it’s likely that Tonya will go and find it.
“We work with local thrift stores and when a kid is looking for something specific then we’ll put the feelers out and find it for them,” she says.
Tonya admits that when covid came that it just killed the Sierra’s Closet program, but that it also allowed her to move Sierra’s Closet from the District offices to the high school when it reopened.
“It’s better up here, it’s closer to the kids. High school is all about havin’ fun, lookin’ good, and participating in everything you can before becoming an adult.”
Sierra’s Closet is open during school hours; for people outside the school call ahead (775-945- 3332) to make an appointment to drop off donations or look for something to borrow