Balfour’s Closet to continue without the namesake teacher


Oftentimes, a good idea starts out small.

For retiring Blaine High School Spanish teacher Ann Balfour, her good idea started with a simple clothes rack of a half-dozen prom dresses in the back of her classroom, donated by a group of gregarious departing seniors in 2003.

Now, “Balfour’s Closet” as it’s lovingly known around Blaine, takes up an entire loft above the high school cafeteria, along with a walk-in dressing room stocked full of formal wear of any size.

Balfour’s 38th year teaching at Blaine High School will be her last, but her namesake closet will continue on, run by staff members Jen Wheeler and Tom Hinz.

The fate of the closet’s future, post-retirement, kept Balfour on her toes before she knew it would continue on under the watchful eye of the two Blaine educators, Balfour said.

“Probably one of the biggest issues I had getting ready to retire wasn’t what everybody thinks. It was this,” Balfour said inside the prom closet, gesturing broadly to the hundreds of garments lining the room.

For Balfour, making sure students would continue having access to basic clothing was the most important thing before saying goodbye to the school she served for nearly four decades.

When starting what is basically a free thrift shop for high school students only, Balfour would notice dozens of empty hangers at the end of every school day. Realizing there was a need not only for glitzy prom dresses, but for basic clothing and footwear, Balfour began accepting donations from the entire community, and the current rendition of Balfour’s Closet came to be.

The Closet Club, where students can volunteer their time to organize, facilitate, and help students find the right clothing, while learning basic retail job skills, started soon after.

Over the years, Balfour’s Closet has helped outfit students for every possible life event; not only prom, but weddings, funerals, birthday parties and anything else that requires more than gym shorts and a hoodie.

Providing winter coats, fitting shoes and fresh socks is a huge benefit of the closet, Balfour said, but ultimately what Balfour’s Closet does is give the students confidence. That, she said, makes all the collecting, organizing and re-racking worth it.

“To see these kids walk out of here going, ‘Oh, I look so nice, this is awesome!’ is incredible,” Balfour said.

Balfour’s Closet will continue to accept donations at the high school’s main office next year. For more information about how to donate high school-age clothing, shoes and accessories, contact the school office at 360/332-6045.


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