Photos courtesy of Deer Valley Unified School District

The Deer Valley Unified School District (DVUSD) marks the 18th anniversary of the Giving Closet, a district-wide resource providing formal attire to students in need, with the story tracing back to the efforts of Ann Elizabeth Ordway before she joined the DVUSD Board.

Ordway, now in her 16th year as a DVUSD Governing Board member, began by collecting gowns, suits, and accessories for significant student events out of her garage, using her vehicle for distribution. Her commitment laid the foundation for what would become a beacon of community support.

The Giving Closet evolved from a garage operation to a designated space in Barry Goldwater High School (BGHS), eventually expanding to occupy a large area on the school’s mezzanine. The desire to transform the Giving Closet into a personalized shopping experience, complete with dressing rooms and an array of clothing options, was brought to fruition through collaboration with BGHS staff and the support of local construction firms Toll Brothers and Young Brothers, facilitated by Phoenix Police Resource Officer Valarie Rhodes.

In parallel, DVUSD Superintendent Curtis Finch explored partnerships with Grand Canyon University’s CityServ program, which repurposes surplus goods from major retailers. Despite initial challenges in finding a local church to manage the distribution, the district eventually partnered with Callahan Cares, establishing a student and family pantry at Deer Valley Middle School, located at 21100 N. 27th Ave., in Phoenix, is adjacent to BGHS.

The latest addition to the initiative, Ann E’s Closet, honors Ordway’s sustained dedication. Chasse Builders of Phoenix donated significant resources to the project, including cabinetry and shelving. The DVUSD Print Shop also contributed with signage. The official reveal of the closet’s name was revealed January 25.

While operational hours for Ann E’s Closet are still in development, on-campus students at BGHS/DVMS will have access during school hours, overseen by school personnel familiar with the new checkout system. This system, connected to Callahan Cares, will ensure the Giving Closet is restocked biweekly.

Plans to expand the concept to each of the district’s five high schools are contingent on the success of the current pilot, with the goal of establishing a new closet every two years to meet the varying needs across the district.