|Fort Thomas resident Carol Weinel (left) volunteers with Madhatter's Closet, which provides clothing, toiletries and bedding to children at Oyler School in Lower Price Hill.|
Carol Weinel wants you to know about Mia. "Mia is a sweet little 8-year-old whose smile lights up a room," she says. Until recently, Mia owned two pairs of underwear. And she had never owned a pair of pajamas. But that changed the day she left Madhatter's Closet. "She was so excited to 'shop' and pick out her own clothes, for the first time," Weinel says.
Weinel is the Vision Screening Coordinator for the Abrahamson Pediatric Eye Institute at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. For the last 20 years this community outreach program has partnered with Lower Price Hill's Oyler School to ensure the school's children's visual needs are met. In 2012 OneSight debuted a permanent vision clinic at Oyler School. "Recently, I learned about Madhatter's Closet, originally started in the boiler room at Oyler by Danielle Mangano, who lives in Indian Hill," Weinel says.
And now Weinel, a longtime Fort Thomas resident, spends every Wednesday afternoon at Oyler School, volunteering at Oyler, helping out in Madhatter's Closet.
|Founder of Madhatter's Closet Danielle Mangano helps a child try on a new coat.|
"Madhatter's Closet, named after the Oyler School mascot, the Madhatters, is a free store for students identified by teachers at Oyler School. They are able to 'shop' for clean clothes, shirts, pants, warm coats, underwear, socks, pajamas and shoes that fit," Weinel says. Children may also take home toothpaste, toothbrushes, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, soap and body wash. "Each child also receives a book or two," Weinel says. "Many of the children sleep on the floor [at home] and 25 percent of students at Oyler are identified as homeless and sleeping in many different places weekly. For those students, blankets are provided."
|Many children at Oyler School lack adequate clothes.|
|Weinel helps a young girl try on new shoes.|
In addition to regularly volunteering, Weinel is determined to do more and she is doing so through the season of Lent. Instead of practicing fasting or abstinence throughout the 40-day season, Weinel is collecting gently used clothing and new toiletries to donate to Madhatter's Closet. "Lent is a time for reflection, prayer and to grow closer to God," Weinel says. "What a perfect opportunity to help others."
Weinel says the students at Oyler School come from one of Cincinnati's poorest communities. "Nearly every student receives free lunches and powerpacks, which ensure the children have food on the weekends," she says. "The closet is a blessing for the children, parents and community. It reminds them that people outside their community care about their children. We are able to provide the children with many basic needs and maybe a little hope. The teachers, staff and volunteers at Oyler are truly amazing and I am so grateful to be a part of this amazing group."
Weinel has lived in Fort Thomas for 29 years. "I married my college sweetheart, Fort Thomas native Lee Weinel, who is the CFO at WCET," Weinel says. "We have two children, both of whom graduated from Highlands High School." Weinel's daughter, Courtney Reimer, graduated from Eastern Kentucky University and is working on her master's degree from Georgetown College while also serving as a special needs preschool teacher for Walton Verona Schools. Reimer and her husband, Braden, are expecting their first child in May. Weinel's son, Adam, graduated from University of Kentucky and is living in Fort Worth, TX. He works for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and is marrying Samantha Wells in July.
After moving to Fort Thomas Weinel says she began volunteering for Charities Guild of Northern Kentucky and her church. "It was a great way to meet wonderful friends," she says. "When my children were young I was PTO president for two years. For the last five years I have volunteered at [The Henry] Hosea House, which I also call my 'happy place.' Every time I volunteer I think they need me, but in reality I need them."
Weinel says she loves volunteering, particularly at Madhatter's Closet. "The closet is more than the clothes and soap," Weinel says. "It's about them knowing they are loved."
|Madhatter's Closet is always in need of gently used clothing, and new toiletries, new underwear and new socks. Just yesterday, Weinel says the Closet ran out of boys' underwear.|
Interested in helping? Visit www.hatmakerfoundation.org to make a monetary donation. To donate gently used clothing or new toiletries, especially toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner and deodorant, as well as school supplies, backpacks, new underwear and socks, beds in a bag or blankets (twin size), email Weinel at firstname.lastname@example.org.