City of Tucker

“High school is hard enough without being homeless.”

Meghan Overdeep
September 11, 2018

Georgia high school custodian Carolyn Collins received her calling early one morning four years ago when she heard a loud knock on the cafeteria door. She opened it to find two students—a boy and a girl—asking to be let in. They explained to Collins that they had been dropped off by their mother, who they lived with in her car, so they could use the restrooms to wash up before class.  

It was then, Collins told The Washington Post, that she decided to make a difference at Tucker High School.

“I knew that they weren’t the only kids at school who were struggling,” Collins told The Washington Post. “And I thought, ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to help these kids. High school is hard enough without being homeless.'”

After work that day, Collins stopped at several dollar stores, and spent $200 on snacks, toiletries, socks, underwear, notebooks and pencils. The next morning, the 54-year-old stopped by the principal’s office to let school administrators know that she planned to help students in need—ones like the siblings she had let in the day before.  A few hours later she was cleaning out an old storage room near the cafeteria, and Collins’s giving closet was born.

Since 2014, each of Tucker High’s 1,800 students know where to turn when they’re in need. Collins has everything from toiletries to prom clothes.

Tucker High School principal Eric Parker told The Post that the school has many pupils living in poverty, and as many as 10 to 15 homeless students at any given time.

“If a student needs something and it’s not in the closet, Ms. Collins will go out of her way to get it or find somebody else who can,” Parker said. “Her commitment to our kids is heartwarming. Whatever problem they might be having in their lives, they know they can trust her to listen and help.”

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Over the years, Collins estimates she has helped about 150 students through the giving closet and spends a few hundred dollars of her own money each month, though today, many of the items are donated.

“Everybody needs somebody,” she told The Post. “Seeing that they know they are loved, that’s my reward.”