We’re so glad you’re here and ready to learn more!
UniCycle works by collecting “outgrown, not worn out” Standard School Attire or other dress code appropriate items in each school, filling that school’s closet with clothing to use for students who need a hand, and sending excess to the UniCycle “warehouse” – a portable building at Percy Priest Elementary. The UniCycle warehouse team then distributes inventory direct to HERO students and to school UniCycle closets that need more or different items than they collect.
To make it all work, we have a core team of general volunteers, then one point person (UniCycle Coordinator) at each school to monitor and promote the collection, stock the closet, send excess items to UniCycle and requests additional items from UniCycle when needed. We provide social media shares, newsletter copy and fliers to promote donations among parents and students. We also provide logistical support and assistance with collection baskets, shelves or bins, so that the process can run as smoothly as possible and with minimal time requirements from the UniCycle Coordinator. The coordinator can be a parent volunteer, a school counselor, a front office or other support staff member, or a teacher.
More details below – take a look and then let’s talk!
The Basics: Here’s what it looks like to start the program at your school
- Secure appropriate school approvals to implement the program
- Serve as liaison between school and UniCycle to communicate needs and progress
- Monitor and empty UniCycle laundry basket
- Get the word out to parents and students to make program successful.
- Collect the donated clothing and fill your closet!
School Administration Approvals
- To launch program
- To advertise to parents and students via available media (fliers, emails, newsletters, etc.)
- To align with PTO (the PTO’s support is valuable, and to be sure there are no competing efforts being made and that any and all cross-promotions are taken advantage of)
- To setup the UniCycle basket and signage at a mutually agreed-upon location – preferably somewhere highly visible to parents, such as the main office or entrance to the school
- To have access to school’s current emergency clothing closet. In general, it makes sense for the UniCycle Coordinator to do an initial inventory of the school’s existing closet, then take extras, fill in holes where needed, and to continue to do this a few times a semester or as needed. Your school may also offer to donate the contents of the “Lost and Found” closet at the end of each semester.
Get the Word Out – Perhaps the most important part!
UniCycle will send copy to use for emails and newsletters about once per month, and will always draft copy for anything you need in between our general outreach efforts. We’ll also send monthly social media shares and fliers for you to use – and again, will be happy to tailor items at other times to fit your particular needs. We’re just counting on you to get the communications out there – we’ll take care of the bulk of the work!
- All-School emails
- School social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)
- Can this be a pop-out or something? Little “tip?” vibe? —Even if you feel that your parent population will have little to donate, you may be surprised and we want every school to be part of every aspect of the program from collection basket to packages sent home with students. Also, do not underestimate the value of school volunteers seeing the basket in your lobby when they sign in – you never know how that visibility may bring in an unexpected donation or partner. Teachers and other school staff will also likely have items to donate, so visibility is key.–
- UniCycle social media – ask us to help promote your event or need!
- Your own personal social network outlets and friends/other parents who you feel comfortable emailing
- Fliers – in take-home folders, on bulletin boards, etc.
- Attend and speak at PTO and Teacher/Admin meetings (or invite us to speak!)
- Engage service groups and clubs within the school – Girl or Boy Scout troops, student council, Honor Society, IB Service Hours, etc. This works especially well at the Middle and High School level.
- Don’t forget to keep school partners such as churches or local businesses apprised of your school’s UniCycle closet efforts – they may want to join in!
- Ask school staff to help in sending the Teacher Guide (we’ll provide a copy!) to UniCycle out to teachers via email, maybe post a copy in the teacher’s lounge.
Sort Donations and Keep the UniCycle Closet Stocked
- Sort – check out each item and make sure it is in condition such that a student would be happy to wear it to school
- Wash – only if something needs a run through the wash, as it most often does not. If it does, you can wash it or send it to the UniCycle Warehouse where volunteers take laundry home. We’ll send replacements!
- Fill your school’s clothing closet and/or deliver to staff person at school who manages the closet
- Keep track of overflow, and send your “extras” to UniCycle to be distributed to a HERO student or another UniCycle closet. It’s easy – box it up, and address to “Percy Priest Elementary/UniCycle” and send through internal MNPS mail (ask your school front office staff where to leave it for pick up!)
- Notes: If a perfect pair of boys’ shorts has an ink stain on the pocket – they are still wearable! We may just give that student three pair instead of two. If an item is stained, worn or torn beyond repair, you can still send it to us and we’ll toss into our Goodwill bin (we get Goodwill gift cards each time the bin is full). Use your judgement – don’t let the “to keep or not to keep” step hang you up!
Show Progress and Appreciation
- Thank you notices – maybe something posted above the basket or on the school’s Facebook page or school newsletter after a particularly fruitful collection period
- News with milestones reached (i.e. our closet is full and we have sent a donation shipment to UniCycle for the HERO program and to fill another school’s closet!)
- Take photos, provide numbers or stories to be used to add interest to the UniCycle Facebook page – photos of how your closet is set up are awesome!
- Keep in contact with school principal/admin/counseling team about the progress of the program and ensure that they know the door is open should the school have more needs than anticipated – that’s why the UniCycle network is WIDE!
- Drive-by Donation Day – Host a day when UniCycle volunteers pick up donations from car windows during drop-off and pick-up time in the hook-up line. Easier than ever for parents, builds awareness of the program, and may give teachers a day off from drop-off or pick-up duty! Ask your principal.
- Specific Item Drive (new socks, underwear, etc.) – could be a contest of sorts per grade or class. At one school, a third grade Girl Scout Troop earned their Philanthropy badges with a leggings drive and then an afternoon of talking about the program and sorting their collection. For a fourth grade end-of-year project, classes organized a school-wide drive of new underwear and socks, as well as fun gift cards to be given to HERO families. A drive could be hosted, with school support, when a school or the HERO office has a specific need or anytime. We will help you to plan!
- Jeans for Teens – a denim drive that could be done almost anywhere to boost a non-SSA middle or high school’s closet with a fresh crop of blue jeans. Same goes for hoodies, and COATS in the fall!
- Reach out; we have more ideas, and love to hear yours!
Each UniCycle Coordinator has autonomy to run his or her school as is fitting, but also, don’t reinvent the wheel and don’t make yourself crazy! There are signs and fliers drafted, newsletter copy written, and always someone with whom to brainstorm. Please keep in touch and ask for help – this does not have to be overly time-consuming, but most certainly will be exponentially rewarding for all involved, from the UniCycle volunteers to the parents and kids who donate, to the students who receive awesome ‘almost new’ clothing to make them feel great as they start each school day! Thank you for being a part of this fantastic effort!
Here’s a library of items to download, print, share and use to communicate with teachers, staff, parents and students about your school’s UniCycle closet. You’ll find signage to post on or near the collection basket, a few evergreen social media posts and fliers, some program launching copy to cut and paste (and edit as you see fit!) for use in parent newsletters, and more. Please reach out if you are thinking of something more specific that would help in getting the word out about your closet, and keep an eye out for our periodic emails with seasonal and otherwise updated collateral to use as well. Not on our email list? Join here (link).
Launch Newsletter Copy and Social Media Captions
Launch Social Media Post – SSA
Launch Social Media Post – non-SSA