ORLANDO – Kenard Lang, the football coach at Jones High School, said a lot of the kids he coaches tend to think of themselves as having a lot of style.
“A lot of tem think they’re supermodels,” Lang said. “When they put on a shirt and tie, they look even better.”
That’s not something all of the teens or their parents can afford, though, noted Ivy Winn-Fowler. As the economy continues to struggle and Florida remains one of the hardest hit states from the crash of the housing market, it’s a challenge for parents to buy new dress clothes for their kids, Winn-Flower said.
“The need is so great,” Winn-Fowler said.
That’s why both Lang and Winn-Fowler were so excited this morning when members of Orange County Corrections showed up with a van filled with clothing – hundreds of belts, ties, shirts and slacks for the kids who attend the school.
The clothing was donated to the school’s Tigers Den, which is located in the high school’s gymnasium, and was founded by Winn-Fowler, a school volunteer. The den is used to collect and provide food, clothing and other goods for needy students, and today, the Orange County Corrections department made a significant donation to it.
Captain Janice Bradstreet arrived in the Orange County Corrections van with the dress clothing items, as part of a program she calls Ties for Teens. She delivered the donations to Lang and Winn-Fowler in the school’s front administrative office.
“I’m very grateful for the things they are doing,” Lang said. “Having this is a real blessing.”
Winn-Fowler agreed, saying “It’s all about the kids. It’s not about me, it’s about the kids – any sport, any athlete, any student.”
Bradstreet said this program came about indirectly, and started when a women’s empowerment task force at the 33rd Street jail, known as W.O.V.E.N. (Women of Vision – Empowerment & Networking), decided to collect formal gowns to contribute to fellow workers who could not afford one for their daughters.
“The way we partnered with Jones (High) is it started with our task force,” Bradstreet said. “Through that task force, we had done some employee donation things. Employees donated formal gowns so the kids could go to the prom.”
But the collection effort was a lot more successful than any of them had expected – they got 80 gowns, far more than they needed.
“We couldn’t give them all away,” Bradstreet said. “So we looked to the community, and that’s when we found Ivy. I learned about the Tigers Den and about their work. Here we learned there was a need for additional assistance, and we decided to join in partnership with them, and put that out to the Corrections Department.”
That’s how W.O.V.E.N. came to launch the Ties for Teens project on behalf of Jones High. On Wednesday, Bradstreet and other Orange County Corrections employees dropped off dress ties, shirts, shoes, suits and pants collected through donations from numerous Orange County Government departments, divisions, and units.
The goal is to provide business attire for students and athletes at the school, since Coach Lang is requiring his athletes to wear a tie and slacks to athletic events. The clothing is also being provided so students can wear them to job interviews or when they apply to college.
“We just feel like this is a great opportunity to help one of our neighbors right down the street,” Bradstreet said. “One of the reasons we’re doing this is shortly after (Orange County) Mayor (Teresa) Jacobs took office, she talked about service to the community. As criminal justice professionals, we have a duty to reach out to the community.”
“It’s been a great program,” Winn-Fowler said, adding that she’s getting the clothing ready for the school’s Aug. 15 opening.
“And it’s all free,” she added. “Everything will be set up on the racks. The boys can take whatever they want.”
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