Most students know to seek help when they have academic troubles, but many suffer silently if they struggle with clothing or food insecurity.
The W Pantry and Thrift Shop is working to change that.
“When a student struggles with biology, for example, they know they should go get a tutor and there is very little stigma,” said Kenya Maxey, coordinator of student basic needs in the Dean of Students Office. “The thrift shop and pantry are resources, just like a tutor. We’re working to make sure students know that and take advantage of what the pantry and thrift shop have to offer.
“We want to level the playing field so that students have access to what they need across the board. When students have access, it helps them feel better about themselves and do better academically and, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. We want them to feel comfortable, so they do well academically and graduate.”
The thrift shop features a wide variety of clothing, including interview-appropriate business attire. The thrift shop was previously known as the Warrior Wardrobe.
“Students didn’t really know what a wardrobe was, so we changed the name to the W Thrift Shop, because everyone knows what thrifting is and everybody loves thrifting,” Maxey said. “The idea is that if we can get them into the thrift shop, then we can also let them know about all of the other services we have, like the food pantry, our partnership with Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and transportation. And because the thrift shop and food pantry are connected, we can work to reduce stigma. If you’re getting food, you can go and pick out items at the thrift shop or if you’re at the thrift shop, you can go next door and learn about the food pantry.”
There is no cost to the clothing at the thrift shop, only a request to bring clothing to donate or volunteer your time.
“Even if they bring us like an old Tigers T-shirt, we don't care, but it is nice to know students are contributing,” Maxey said. “If you cannot donate, we welcome students volunteering an hour of their time. Many of our students enjoy volunteering and it is something that is a part of their everyday activities”.
According to its website, the W Thrift Shop had 410 visits during the 2021-22 academic year and distributed more than 1,600 items.
Maxey said the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and that people who take advantage of the service often want to help out later.
“We had a staff member who had a fire at her family’s home,” Maxey said. “She came in and got some items for her and her family. When they got back on their feet, she brought in a whole bunch of clothes and said, ‘You guys helped me when I really needed it and I’m just so appreciative.’ We have great campus partners who donate regularly.”
Students can get food twice a month at the food pantry.
“Students can get groceries and we also have hygiene products,” Maxey said. “A lot of our students find us via word of mouth. They come in with a friend who told them. Our W Pantry and Thrift Shop team also visit classrooms to inform students about food and clothing insecurity.
The W Food Pantry and Thrift Shop are located at 695 and 703 W Kirby on the street level of The Towers building. Students interested in finding out more information, donating or volunteering can email email@example.com.