It wasn’t long after Karen Ingram of Akron Children’s Locust Pediatric Care Group noticed a few refugee families in need that she took matters into her own hands. As a mother herself, she felt compelled to help these families whose children were in desperate need of the most basic necessities.
“When they first come in, you notice that their clothing is either too small, or maybe too big, not appropriate for the season,” said the care group’s secretary. “You see little kids with shoes on that are maybe 2 sizes too big. Sometimes they come in here and they don’t even have coats.”
She recalls one little girl, aged 5 or older, who came to her appointment dressed in pants sized 3T. Not only were they extremely tight in the waistline, they also were halfway up her legs in the middle of winter.
So, she hopped on the phone and called the hospital’s volunteer office to see if they had anything to spare. Fortunately they did, so Ingram was able to donate 2 pairs of pants to the little girl.
It’s stories like this one that sparked the idea for what she calls “Miss Karen’s Closet.”
The staff at Locust Pediatrics is accustomed to serving under-resourced and high-risk populations in their office, from homeless mothers to refugee families and children in foster care.
“My heart just [went] out for those people,” said Ingram. “It was basically just seeing the need and just sayin’, ‘What can I do to help?’”
Today, Ingram uses a spare office as her “closet” to store the donations from the volunteer office and the staff at Locust Pediatrics. It’s complete with shelving and a table, along with an old double chair from the waiting room for children to try on shoes.
There’s no system or requirements in place. When a child comes into the office and a basic need is not met, anyone in the office can take him over to shop “Miss Karen’s Closet.”
“When I look at that room, my dream is for it to feel like they’re going to the store,” she said. “I would like for those shelves and that rack to be filled so we have plenty to give out to these children.”
Ingram has about 50 clothing pieces lining one wall of her closet, but she hopes to one day fill it with about 200 items.
The families and recipients are very grateful and appreciative of the generous donations.
“It’s nice to see that you’re able to make somebody smile,” said Ingram. “It just makes you feel good knowing that you’ve done something [for somebody else], and it may not even be that much. We go the extra mile in our office because we see so many different circumstances.”
Ingram has been donating items to families in need for nearly 10 years now, but just recently her office made the closet’s moniker official.
To commemorate her 35th anniversary with Locust Pediatrics in July, Hospital President Bill Considine and Ingram’s supervisor, Franklin Choate, surprised her with a laminated poster to officially label the space, “Miss Karen’s Closet,” along with a certificate of appreciation.
“It was so sweet. I work with some great people,” said Ingram. “It’s so wonderful to do this. It really is because next time it could be you who needs help. That’s how I feel about it.”
If you have any gently used items to spare, including clothing, socks, shoes, pajamas, blankets, coats, hats or anything else a child could benefit from, call the office at 330-543-8530 or label donations made through the volunteer office, “Attention: Locust Pediatrics.”