A Hemet teacher never expected her simple social media plea for gently used jackets would turn into hundreds of donations over the course of a few days - and an outpouring of community support - after she saw students shivering during SoCal's winter storms this weekend.
"This community banded together to take care of our kids," Aracely Vega Worley said. "We had not one jacket Friday and in one weekend, we received a couple hundred. People want to help, but sometimes they just need someone to say, 'this is what I need.'"
Worley, a special education teacher at Rancho Viejo Middle School, said the whole idea of winter storm clothes drive got started as punishing storms hit the SoCal region starting Friday.
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She noticed many students without jackets as temperatures dipped and three storms began moving into the region.
"I even saw a kid with a throw on. They were so cold," she said.
After mentioning it to a colleague, her coworker said a long while ago the school had a drive.
They began organizing and sending out emails. But Worley wanted to take it up a notch. She posted her plea in Facebook forums in the Temecula and Hemet areas.
Soon, the posts had hundreds of comments and thousands of likes.
So far, Worley said they have collected more than 200 jackets.
"I walked into school Monday and there were bags waiting for me, she said. "I've met people in parking lots. I've had jackets dropped off at my doorstep. It's just been a huge outpouring to help quite a few kids."
Worley said seeing her students walk around with their new winter wear is incredibly uplifting.
"One was my student, and he did not have jacket. When I saw him again, he was so happy and warm," Worley said. "That's the power of social media."
But they still need more. She also said they are working with other Hemet area schools to expand the drive.
"It gets really, really cold - it was 36 degrees this morning," she said. "Someone from Hemet brought a pair of gloves, and all the kids loved them."
While Worley partially credits the power of social media, she is quick to point out how it's really all owed to the community.
"They're not brand new but people gave their best and the kids are just happy," she said. "This community sometimes gets a bad rap but we banded together and we're still banding together."
How to Help
Gently-used jackets, mittens or gloves, and scarves.
They should also be age-appropriate sizes for middle school children and older.
Where to Drop Off:
985 N. Cawston Ave., Hemet, CA 92545
Drop off at the front desk with attention to Mrs. Worley.
The Hemet Elks Lodge is helping in Worley's drive and donations can be dropped off there as well.