Back-to-School Clothing Closet opens for OUSD families

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Ojai Valley News photo by Perry Van Houten

Getting Chaparral Auditorium ready for this week’s Back-to-School Clothing Closet were (from left), Rotary Club of Ojai West president Stephen Adams, OUSD public information officer Linda Jordan, Rotary Club of Ojai director of youth services Kathy Yee, Rotary Club of Ojai president Betsy Watson and OUSD Family Support and Emergent Bilingual Coordinator Alexandra Mejia-Holdsworth.


Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter

Ojai Unified School District’s Chaparral Auditorium was stacked with backpacks, school supplies and clothing Aug. 25-26, as the District’s nonprofit Family Fund hosted its Back-to-School Clothing Closet.

We’ve reached out to our families who have indicated a need for these items and invited them,” Linda Jordan, OUSD Family Fund coordinator, wrote in an email.

As you can imagine, at the start of every school year, these resources are the most-requested from families,” she stated. “This year we are including school supplies and backpacks.”

Approximately 150 backpacks were donated by the Rotary Clubs of Ojai.

Rotary received the backpacks through a partnership between the Los Angeles Lakers and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County, who donated 1,000 backpacks to local Rotary Clubs to give to schools.

On Aug. 21, Rotary presented 44 backpacks to the organization School on Wheels, which provides supplies, tutoring and educational services to homeless children in the area, Rotary of Ojai president Betsy Watson told the Ojai Valley News.

During the presentation, a member of the organization’s executive board said a new backpack is like a talisman to children that usually get only get second hand supplies. “It’s emblematic for their new year, their beginning, and they’ve got something brand new,” Watson said.

At the Back-to-School Clothing Closet, OUSD had bilingual volunteers on hand to answer questions and take requests for additional services. They included new District Family Support and Emergent Bilingual Coordinator Alexandra Mejia-Holdsworth.

For school supplies, Family Fund partners with many organizations such as the Ojai Valley Board of Realtors, the Optimist Club of Ojai and the Ojai Valley Lions Club.

Along with Rotary, Ojai Presbyterian Church was a major donor of backpacks.

All the backpacks are new and no two are exactly alike. Some came with school supplies inside.

“The kids had a very rough year last year, and it’s such a pleasure to see kids smile and enjoy being educated and having special things to take with them to school. I’ve very happy we’re able to do this,” said Kathy Yee, the Rotary Club of Ojai’s director of youth services.

“This is going to mean a lot to the kids. They’re going to be very proud,” said Rotary of Ojai West president Stephen Adams.

“We are grateful to our partners, including Rotary of Ojai and Rotary of Ojai West, and truly couldn’t effectively meet the growing needs of our students and families without their generous support,” wrote Jordan.

In October, OUSD Family Fund will be hosting its sixth Bike Giveaway Day, delivering new or refurbished bikes to students who need them. Through partnerships with Ojai Presbyterian Church, Project Bicycle Love, Bicycles of Ojai and Oak View Cyclery, more than 175 bikes were distributed in the last two years, along with new bicycle helmets and locks.

OUSD launched Family Fund in the fall of 2019, stated Jordan, “to provide services to our most at-risk students, and to ensure that students and families have the resources they need to learn and participate in school.”

Family Fund hosts four Clothing Closets each year, and two Bike Giveaway Days each year.

Other services provided by Family Fund include money for athletic uniforms and connections to local and county agencies for emergency services such as housing, according to Jordan.

Ojai Unified families who’d like to request services can fill out a Help form on OUSD’s website, at


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