Dowagiac business donates backpacks, school supplies to students in need

DOWAGIAC — School may be virtual for Dowagiac Union Schools students, but that does not mean that the demand for school supplies does not exist.

Dowagiac resident Beth Clark is doing her part to make sure children in the school district have the materials they need in order to be successful in the classroom.

Clark, the owner of Mariah’s Closet, 113 Commercial St., Dowagiac, created “Bagged 4 Kids,” a fundraising project aiming to supply students with backpacks and school supplies. The first phase of the project raised more than $300, with Mariah’s Closet matching to total more than $600.

The funds allowed Clark to purchase 96 backpacks, which were then filled with school supplies for students.

“We’ve been doing this since June,” Clark said. “We’ve been raising money for it. It’s all either monetary donations or school supplies. We have kids, so we know that the need for school supplies is never-ending. We’re doing the best we can to make sure the kids in our district have what they need to be great.”

Clark says the plan is to continue Bagged 4 Kids year-round.

“We have a jar on the counter that says ‘Bag Fund’ for customers if they want to put money in,” Clark said. “We’ll match every donation. If one of the schools calls us and needs paper, pencils or backpacks, we can get it to them.”

Founded in 2017 as an online handbag shop, Mariah’s Closet moved into its Commercial Street location this past spring and sells handbags, wallets, totes and more. The name of Clark’s business is a tribute to her daughter, Mariah, who died as a stillborn on Jan. 17, 2013.

“My husband and I have four boys,” Clark said. “We decided to go into business for [Mariah]. To me, a purse is a girl’s best friend. That’s what she would be to me if she was here, my best friend.”

While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has hindered many local businesses, Clark said that Mariah’s Closet has performed well thanks to its private appointment shopping option, which gives patrons the opportunity to schedule appointments in 30-minute blocks and to have the store to themselves.

“[The pandemic] hasn’t affected us much,” she said. “We’ve actually benefited. Our private appointment shopping was a huge hit. When we came up with that idea, we kind of took off. People like coming in and having the store all to themselves. There’s no pressure to make a quick decision. Online and in-person sales have been good.”

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