For Daniel L. Lofton, Wittenberg class of 2019, service will always be in his DNA. Lofton, from Bessemer, Alabama, has already spent his first year after college assisting Wittenberg’s Student Resource Center staff as a coordinator through AmeriCorps and Ohio Campus Compact.
Ohio Campus Compact created this new program through AmeriCorps to help selected college campuses around the state. Those admitted to the program work to assist students in need by connecting them with on- and off-campus resources. During his year of service, Lofton helped the University address insecurities Wittenberg students have faced with regard to food, clothing, transportation, and/or housing.
“This is a new program offered to Ohio Campus Compact-affiliated institutions (which Wittenberg is a member of) through an agreement with AmeriCorps through ServeOhio,” said Lofton, who graduated with a B.A. in theatre with minors in dance and music. “The grant strives to help students at Ohio Campus Compact-affiliated institutions with non-academic resources. After graduating in 2019, I knew that I wanted to work with AmeriCorps, which allowed me to apply for this role, and I was fortunate enough to be offered the position late last summer. It is a one-year position with the contract ending on June 30.”
In his position, Lofton also supports students by helping them identify any areas that could hinder them from being a successful student at Wittenberg.
“This ranges from commuter student transportation issues, food insecurity on campus, housing issues, college navigation, childcare, to students on campus who do not have proper clothing for interviews and internships, and now virtual representation through COVID-19,” he said. “The scope of my work depends on how the students identify their issues. Ideally, I come in to support students in ways that Wittenberg does not based on other functional capacities on campus. While we understand the relationship between student retention and having their basic needs met, my role is to ensure our students have access to these resources.”
Recognizing some of the needs of students, Lofton recently introduced a few new opportunities to the Wittenberg community, including a clothing closet in partnership with the Student Advisory Board within the University’s Department of Education. The closet is expected to continue after Lofton’s time concludes.
“The name of the closet is called ‘WittFitz’ and its purpose is to support our students who cannot purchase the necessary dress clothing that aligns with employers’ demands because of financial barriers. We want students to represent Wittenberg University in a way that supports the mission and vision of the institution when they are on interviews, internships, completing community service, etc., and we did not want finances and clothing to be a barrier for our students. Additionally, while the focus of the closet is on dress clothing, we also want to let the campus community know that there is still a need for casual clothing as well to address the everyday clothing needs of our students.”
Members of the Advisory Board, especially Angela M. Gialanella, class of 2021 of Adamsburg, Pennsylvania, and Brian Yontz, associate professor of education and department chair, made sure that the plan to launch the closet was developed, implemented, and executed.
“The Education Advisory Board worked hard to help set up the closet, take up donations and spread the word through their platform,” Lofton said. “The McClain Center under Joshua Moore (assistant dean of diversity and inclusion), the Office of Student Development, and others supported, gave, and solicited donations, and promoted the closet.”
“We have observed a significant need with our education students who are often expected to spend parts of five days a week in local schools,” Yontz said. “We know some of our students do not have access to enough clothing that allows them to comfortably complete their work in our partner schools. While the clothing closet will provide access to all types of clothing, I see firsthand a need for professional wear. I’m proud that our students have identified a need, have acted, and are collaborating with Daniel and the Student Resource Center.”
WittFitz, located in Room 9 of Blair Hall, currently has no set hours, but appointments and donations can be arranged by emailing Lofton at email@example.com or by calling the office at (937) 327-6157.
When donating, please consider the following: all clothing must not have stains, tears, rips, missing buttons, or broken zippers. WittFitz is seeking mainly dress shirts, ties, suits, suit jackets, skirts, dresses, belts, and dress shoes, but is not limited to receiving other types of clothing.
“I want to thank everyone who has donated or contributed in making this happen,” Lofton said. “I cannot imagine trying to pull this off alone. It has been great to see the Wittenberg community come together like this. I know it’s hard to have in-person contact with anyone right now, but if you are wanting to donate to the closet, please hold on to any donations at this time, and we will set up a later time and date to get those items from you.”