By Iuliana Petre

Killeen Daily Herald

At 4 p.m. on Friday, when some school-aged kids are at home playing video games, watching television or hanging outside with friends, students from Fairway Middle School gathered in the school's gymnasium to sort through clothing and other items for their school's new "closet."

"Fresh Start" is a program initiated at the school at the beginning of the year to help families in crisis.

"Just the other day, the home of the family of one of our students caught on fire," said Thomas Hessell, Fairway Middle School's Communities in Schools director. He said that since items had already been donated to the program, the hardest part was transporting the items to the family's new residence.

Teachers, students and even community organizations have made donations to Fairway Middle School's closet by giving new and used clothing, appliances, nonperishable food and furniture.

"Ashley Furniture Store donated several pieces of new furniture," Hessell said.

But, the difference between Goodwill, the Salvation Army and Fairway Middle School's "Fresh Start" closet is that everything at "Fresh Start" is free.

"This is Goodwill stuff you don't have to pay for," said Yasaman Conway, an eighth-grader at Fairway Middle School.

Conway and her peers were busy receiving donations Friday afternoon, sorting through them and folding clothes into neat piles.

The purpose of the program is two fold: help those in need while letting kids "get involved in community service," Hessell said, adding that "Fresh Start" teaches the kids how to get a schoolwide program up and running, how a program like this works and how a group of people can go about putting together a program of this kind.

"I think we're doing big things. We're helping out people in the community," said Tionna Garner, an eighth-grader at Fairway Middle School.

Of the student population at Fairway, 70 percent of the kids come from lower income families, said Fairway Principal Jill Balzer, which means there always will be someone in need of basic items.

"I think we're doing a good thing," said Ka'shawn Harris, an eighth-grader at Fairway Middle School. "People who have less than me deserve to have these things."

But, the students and staff at Fairway Middle School are no strangers to giving back.

For the last decade, Fairway students have contributed to the Toys-for-Tots drive sponsored by the Marine Corps at Christmas.

Two years ago, the school was named the second-largest contributor of toys, of all the organizations in this area, said Dawn Richardson, the campus instructional technologist.

Contact Iuliana Petre at or (254) 501-7469.

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