More than 80,000 empty soda cans were dropped off at schools across Tigard and Tualatin last week as part of a special fundraiser to help the under-privileged in the area.

Students collected the empty cans for recycling and the proceeds went to the Caring Closet, which provides clothes, school supplies and backpacks to disadvantaged children in the school district.

Event organizers raised more than $4,000 for the Closet, which has seen an uptick in the number of needy families over the last two years.

The Closet also received about $600 in cash donations during the fundraiser, said Caring Closet director Marilyn Hassmann, and donations keep coming in.

'The need is so great. There are so many families in need this year, because they have lost their jobs, their home.' She said. 'People are low on food and clothes and health all the way around.'

The Caring Closet expects to serve more than 1,600 students this year, and has already served about 100 more students than they had at this time last year, Hassmann said.

Proceeds from the two-day drive will go to purchase new shoes, clothes and hygiene items for needy kids in the school district.

Hassmann said that the drive has been a huge success and hopes that schools or local businesses will want to collect cans for the Closet in the future.

'I hope this can be an ongoing process because people have pop cans and bottles, and they don't like to take them to the grocery store. If they can donate the cans, or donate the money from them, that's huge for us,' she said.

The pop can drive was inspired after students at Durham Elementary School collected cans and later donated a check to the organization.

The drive was expanded this year to 11 of the district's 15 schools from across Tigard and Tualatin.

'Getting 11 schools (to participate) is incredible,' said event organizer Molly Smith before the fundraiser. 'I threw the idea out hoping to get maybe five schools. I didn't know how many would be interested.'

Smith said that the amount of support she has received speaks volumes.

'It speaks to the passion that our community has for taking care of each other,' she said. 'Everyone can give in that way.'

The Caring Closet continues to accept regular donations of gently used or new clothes and other items.

For more information on the Caring Closet call 503-603-1576.

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