One classroom in Denair isn’t for teaching. It’s for families in need of clothing

Denair Middle School has turned a classroom into a place where families in need can get donated clothing and bedding.

Elvia Brizuela, a bilingual secretary at the school, got the idea a year ago while registering a girl in a Spanish-speaking farm worker family. They had lost everything in a 2017 wildfire in Napa County.

Brizuela put the word out to other people in the campus community and got donations of items and money for the family. That evolved into a permanent program called Coyote Closet, named for the school mascot and occupying a vacant classroom.

Families in need can be referred by teachers and others at any Denair Unified School District campus. They can visit privately to find what they need among the new and gently used items.

“We know there are a lot of people who can use help, but they’re too shy to ask,” Brizuela said in a district news release.

Some of the clothing racks were made by a Denair resident. Kmart donated racks and hangers. The Kiwanis Club of Greater Turlock helped identify families in need.

The effort has help also from the Legacy Health Endowment, which serves parts of Stanislaus and Merced counties, and Sierra Vista Family Services, which oversees mental health programs at Denair schools.

Donors and families in need can make appointments with Brizuela at 209-632-2510, ext. 3211. A prom dress drive is coming in spring.

Hughson tops Decathlon

Hughson High School won the 39th annual Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon. held Feb. 2 at Johansen High School. The event tests students on art, economics, music, language, literature, mathematics, science and social science.

Oakdale High was the runner-up, and Ceres placed third. Oakdale topped the Super Quiz portion, and Beyer took the Challenge Cup.

These students scored the highest points in three divisions based on grade point average:

  • Honors (3.75 to 4.0): Paramveer Brar, Enochs

  • Scholastic (3.0 to 3.74): Murphy Phillips, Hughson

  • Varsity (2.99 and below): Michael Costa, Ceres

Marissa Neal of Hughson was the champion among alternate team members. Calvin Sokk of Modesto High won the essay contest.

Decathletes show their knowledge in multiple-choice tests, speeches, interviews and essays.

Almond Board fills post

Josette Lewis is the new director of agricultural affairs for the Almond Board of California, based in Modesto. She succeeds Robert Curtis, who retired last year after 45-plus years in the job.

Lewis will oversee research into how almond growers can conserve water, reduce waste, improve air quality and manage pests in an “environmentally friendly” way, a news release said.

She most recently was associate vice president of sustainable agriculture at the Environmental Defense Fund. Before that, she was associate director of the World Food Center at the University of California, Davis.

Lewis began her career at the U.S. Agency for International Development. She has a doctorate in molecular biology from UCLA.

And finally ...

Shoppers at Save Mart and its affiliated FoodMaxx stores donated more than $300,000 in the annual Give, Share, Care campaign around Christmas.

The Modesto-based grocery company turned over the money to food banks around the Central Valley, spokeswoman Victoria Castro said. This included $35,600 for the Second Harvest Food Bank of San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties and $9,0000 for Inter-Faith Ministries of Modesto.

Customers at the checkout stands could give $2 to provide someone with breakfast, $3 for lunch or $5 for dinner.

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John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.