As lawyers, our natural instinct is to solve problems. Resolve disputes. Find what is broken in the law and society and drive positive change. We identify needs, and we address them. In a powerful way, the driving forces behind the Raleigh nonprofit Note in the Pocket are doing all of this and more. The need they identified is the staggering number of Wake County children who qualify for free and reduced lunch, who lack clean clothes to wear to school, and whose families are drastically under-resourced. Note in the Pocket has addressed this need by starting with one deficiency and engaging the local community to cure it.
The effort behind Note in the Pocket began to take shape in 2005, when a young kindergarten teacher noticed the distressing number of children in her class who were not appropriately clothed or fed. In particular, she noted that in the winter months many of her students showed up to school with the same threadbare, short-sleeved shirts day after day. She resolved to choose one basic need and then find a cure: to provide clean, warm clothing for each and every student. With the help of her family, she promptly began by purchasing coats from thrift shops to send home with the children. After many families sent the coats back to school under the impression they were simple loaned for the day, the school’s social worker slipped notes in the coat pockets, explaining to the families that the coats were provided by the community and were gifts for the children to retain. Through these efforts, Note in the Pocket was born.
This teacher’s act of kindness quickly grew to encompass all kindergarten classes in the school. Eventually, every child in the school received a winter coat before the cold weather set in. Each coat came with a “note in the pocket” indicating that the coats were gifts for the children to keep. The ministry eventually expanded by word of mouth and in 2011, the current executive director was appointed to streamline the collecting, processing, and distribution of donations. Throughout the next several years, Note in the Pocket took on its current form: a 501(c)(3) with its own facility that services all 177 public schools in Wake County.
Note in the Pocket, or “NITP,” now works with the Wake County Public School System social workers and 12 other agencies, including Family Promise and the Salvation Army. In 2016, NITP served a total of 3,875 people, distributing a staggering 90,224 pieces of new or like-new school appropriate clothing to families from Fuquay-Varina to the northernmost corner of Wake Forest. With each bag of clothing, NITP volunteers include a simple note that reads “you are loved,” reminding recipients of their local community’s support and care.
According to the driving forces behind NITP today, the organization simply could not continue without the help of its many committed volunteers. When asked why they pour their time into NITP, volunteers responded enthusiastically. “It is an awesome place and their mission is close to my heart,” one volunteer shared. Others added that “everyone here makes you feel as if you are making a difference,” and still others stated: “We should all help others in need and what a better way than to start with a child’s basic needs?”
This summer, members of the Wake County Bar Association’s Public Service Committee were fortunate to witness the incredible operation behind the bags of clothes that bring joy and security to thousands of Wake County families. Throughout the summer, the committee solicited donations from Wake County Bar Association members, collecting enough bags to fill four large bins at the NITP facility. Last month, committee members delivered the donations and spent the morning touring the facility and sorting donations for distribution to families. Not only was this a unique opportunity to steal a glance at the inner workings of a successful organization, but participants were uplifted by the event. “It is always so encouraging to see fellow members of our bar giving back to those less fortunate,” Ashleigh Parker Dunston, Chairwoman of the Public Service Committee, remarked. “We chose Note in the Pocket for our donation drive because of the work that they do serving the homeless and impoverished students and families of Wake County. We look forward to making this summer donation drive an annual event.”
For more information on Note in the Pocket, to learn about upcoming events, and to discover opportunities to volunteer or donate, visit http://www.noteinthepocket.org/.