Filling a Need


With a career goal centered on working with young families, Sarah Plummer '11 of Gloversville, N.Y., created a free, donation-driven clothing exchange for parents in their teens and 20s by collecting clothing from her peers at MCLA.

While it wasn't difficult to find free clothing for children in the area, "I felt that there was a strong need for parents themselves to have access to clothing, especially for employment interviews," Plummer said. "The word of the program has been spreading to different organizations in the area as a valuable resource to families in the community."

Nominated by one of her sociology professors, Dr. Myles Whitney, she was awarded the Steve Green Engagement Scholarship of $1,000.

Plummer got the idea for the project while she served an internship at Child Care of the Berkshires, where her responsibilities included maintaining a children's clothing exchange. But while finding children's clothing was not difficult for the area's needy families, there wasn't a place for young parents to find what they needed.

Because many of the students at MCLA are around the same ages as these parents, Plummer decided to enlist the help of the campus community. So, she worked Spencer Moser, coordinator of MCLA's Center for Service and Engagement, to set up multiple clothing drives around campus, which took place throughout the fall semester.  

Plummer collected more than 10 large bags of clothing.

The experience was a valuable one, she said. Because she plans to work with young parents, the project gave her a jump start as she works to help them gain access to the resources they need. In addition, her involvement with this work gave her knowledge of the various resources and outreach organizations within Berkshire County.

Although she graduated in December, the sociology major will continue the effort this semester. Her goal is to hold at least four clothing swap parties at local social service organizations and events.

In the meantime, she has applied to the University of Albany's School of Social Welfare, and aims to begin work on her master's of social work degree in the fall.

Plummer hopes the program will become a permanent resource for the North Adams community.

Soon, she will begin a search for another MCLA student to replace her and carry on the work she started.

What's the best thing about her MCLA experience? Plummer, who now works as a group leader for an after school program at Child Care of the Berkshires, says it was the internship she served.

"Without the opportunity, I would not have gained experience with helping children and families, created this program, or have the current employment opportunity I have there now," she said.

"One of the reasons I chose to go to MCLA was for its small, friendly environment. Making friends at MCLA is easy - everyone pretty much knows everyone, and with such small classes, it is easy to get to know other students in your courses.

"All of the professors I have had at MCLA are very approachable and are sincerely interested in the growth of their students," Plummer continued. "I have become very close with many of my sociology professors and their guidance and support have truly shaped the person I am pursuing to be."