When Kendall Deitch launched Big Sister’s Closet as a freshman in the spring of 2013, she didn’t want it to be another donation service. She wanted it to be a chance for girls about to enter middle school to revamp their wardrobe and have some fun.
The event, which takes place toward the end of the school year, invites fifth-grade girls at L.L. Hotchkiss Elementary School, about to enter middle school, to pick out clothes donated by Highland Park High School students.
Deitch forumlated the idea after she and her parents volunteered at the North Texas Food Bank with the Food 4 Kids backpack program. The program, which operates in 330 North Texas elementary schools, distributes backpacks of food to around 11,000 students weekly to ensure they are fed over the weekend.
Deitch’s time with the North Texas Food Bank helped her realize if these children were struggling for food, there was probably a need for new clothes as well.
When she contacted Phyllis Jeff, a counselor at Hotchkiss, about Big Sister’s Closet, she received an enthusiastic response within the hour.
“I just thought it was very innovative for her to come up with such an idea,” said Jeff, who has helped Deitch put on the event since its commencement. “For her to have started something and have grown into something really big … I’m just so impressed. This thought came out of a teenager, being the person a fifth grader can look up to, is pretty impressive.”
Deitch vividly remembers the first year Big Sister’s Closet opened its door in the Hotchkiss library. After preparing the library with clothes donated by 22 of her friends from school, Deitch was overjoyed to see almost 30 girls’ eyes light up at the room full of free apparel.
“I had no idea how well it would work out or what it would be like,” Dietch recalled.
Now a senior at HPHS, Deitch has seen her project turn from a mere thought to an annual event. Big Sister’s Closet isn’t just another extracurricular activity for her; it’s an achievement.
For her efforts, Deitch was awarded the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon honor of Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy on Nov. 13.
As she finishes her last year with Big Sister’s Closet, and with college on the horizon, Deitch said she has already found a successor.
“The most important thing is continuing [Big Sister’s Closet],” Deitch said, “and having someone try to figure out how it can have an even bigger impact.”
Grace Dodd, a freshman at HPHS, helped with the event in May, and is preparing to take the reigns of Deitch’s legacy.
“I’m looking forward to take part as a leader and really keep up what [Deitch] is doing,” Dodd said. “I’ve already started talking to my friends and they all seem really excited. If it just took off, we could even make it a school clothing drive.”