Franklin County Juvenile Court offers youths donated clothing to improve self-esteem – Columbus Dispatch

There are many reasons why teenagers don’t show up for school.

One of the saddest reasons, according to probation officers at Franklin County Juvenile Court,
is that some kids are so poor, they wear the same thing every day or have clothes so worn and
outdated that classmates make fun of them.

In fall 2013, probation supervisor Jan Maloney and some of her co-workers began discussing the
problem. That’s when Maloney’s dermatologist, Dr. Kelley Zyniewicz, mentioned that she and her
daughter were looking for a way to help those coming back into the community after serving
time.

Nearly three years later, a room in the probation department is filled with neatly arranged
racks and shelves of clothing, shoes and toiletry items that are free to any of the youths served
by the court and to their families. It’s called The Boutique, and it has served at least 250
people, Maloney said.

“We just wanted to make it easier for kids to fit in and maybe want to go to school,” she said. “
But we’ve been helping whole families. I didn’t envision that. People are so appreciative.”

The Boutique has received donations from probation officers, judges, magistrates and their
friends and family members, Maloney said.

“I’m so proud of our probation department and honored by the doctor’s generosity,” said Juvenile
Court Judge Elizabeth Gill, a frequent donor to the effort. “This is something that the juveniles
and their families really need, and it’s a way for us to support restoring them after their
involvement in the juvenile-justice system.”

Zyniewicz, whose medical practice is based in Westerville, has been one of the most enthusiastic
donors and volunteers from the beginning. She stops by the probation department at least once a
month with donations; sometimes they are items collected from friends and family, but they often
are from shopping trips she’s made to big-box retailers or places such as Plato’s Closet, a
used-clothing retailer. She persuaded a department store to donate clothing racks.

“It just started with us thinking that maybe if the juveniles had different clothing, nice
clothing, as they left here, it might increase their self-esteem and make them more likely to go to
school or look for a job,” Zyniewicz said. “I hope it’s a feel-good moment for them that can have a
ripple effect.”

She also brings in boxes of soap, lotions, shampoo, deodorant and laundry detergent that her
office receives as samples for patients. “As dermatologists, we get more samples than we need,”
Zyniewicz said.

Her daughter, Lizzie, was in high school when the effort began and volunteered at The Boutique
for a senior-year project. Now a student at Ohio State University, she continues to help and offer
advice — particularly about choosing items that will appeal to teenagers.

“She has her finger on the pulse,” Zyniewicz said. “She’ll tell me, ‘Mom, they aren’t going to
wear that’ or ‘That’s a mom outfit.’“

In addition to making sure that the clothing is youth-oriented, those involved say they strive
to provide items that are new or like-new, she said. And she’s always looking for Ohio State
T-shirts, sweatshirts and jerseys, which are popular with the boys.

The racks include athletic wear and dresses appropriate for a school dance. Teenage moms have
been able to receive items such as diaper bags and disposable diapers.

The Boutique originally was in the same building as the Juvenile Detention Center, but was moved
across the street to the probation department this summer, said Morgan Bommer-Guinn, a care
coordinator in the department. It’s a more convenient location for staff members and more welcoming
for teenagers who might be uncomfortable visiting the detention center, she said.

The probation officers are uniquely qualified to know which of the youths they serve are most in
need, Bommer-Guinn said.

“You have a true understanding of how they live,” she said. “You see them at home, at school —
you know if they’re wearing the same thing every day.”

Anyone can donate to The Boutique. With fall and winter approaching, hoodies and jackets are
needed, staff members said. Any donated underwear must be new; all other items should be at least
like-new.

For more information, call the juvenile probation department at 614-525-7535.


jfutty@dispatch.com


@johnfutty

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