Alum gives back to Martins Ferry through Rider Care Closet

Rider Care Closet helps teens in need

T-L Photo/SHELLEY HANSON GATHERED IN the Rider Care Closet sponsored by Dan Longenette are, front row, juniors Kara Kapiskosky, left, and Chloe Hill, who organized the closet; woodshop teacher Jamie Kovacs, who built the hanging rack; English teacher Karen Lloyd; Principal Joe Mamone; Nikki Longenette, daughter of Dan Longenette; Stacie Longenette, wife of Dan Longenette; Dan Longenette; and Madeline Scarfo, 17, daughter of Dan.

MARTINS FERRY — Martins Ferry Schools helped shape who Dan Longenette is today, which is one reason why he gives back to the Rider Care Closet at the high school building.

Longenette was in the city Thursday to learn the closet was receiving a new name, “Rider Care Closet sponsored by Dan ‘Boots’ Longenette.” The closet contains clothing, food and personal care items for students in need to use for free.

A 1986 graduate of Martins Ferry, Longenette said he decided to start donating money and clothing to the closet after visiting during a past alumni career day.

He noticed some students were wearing shabby clothing and he wanted to help. After speaking with Principal Joe Mamone, he learned the need was even greater. Many students depend on food from the closet to supplement their own home pantries.

“When I came home and saw these kids suffering it drove me insane,” he said.

Longenette said his alma mater has a lot of success stories and he hopes more will give back like he does.

“My old classmates, if you are from the valley and you’ve had success in life, you need to give back. Don’t forget where you are from. Never forget where you are from. … You get so much out of growing up here you can’t forget the people who need our help,” Longenette said. “They are a lot of guys anywhere from 35 to 70 who are super successful that came out of this place who need to give back.”

Mamone said he wanted Longenette to receive recognition of his continuous support.

“This started at our alumni career day. … I was talking about how the city has changed and the makeup of the students has changed. I mentioned that were starting a clothing closet, and within in hour he was all over it. Within a week I had four or five boxes of shirts from him, and checks just starting coming in,” Mamone said of Longenette.

Mamone said even he called Longenette to make sure he wasn’t overextending himself moneywise. Longenette noted he built his donations to the closet into his budget.

“That just took everything here to another level,” Mamone said.

Mamone said the students also stepped up to help fill the closet. He said the teenagers who donated to the closet are the same group of children who, as elementary school students, raised $2,300 in pennies to give to juvenile diabetes research.

“They were bringing their piggy banks and donating,” Mamone added.

Mamone noted, however, he knows each time a letter goes out asking for donations families are not always able to give. That’s what has made Longenette’s donations so important.

“We have so many kids who leave school and go right to work to help keep the lights on at home,” Mamone said. “A family of three or four kids and mom is working at McDonald’s downtown, it doesn’t go far. A lot of these kids we know are not getting a meal until they come back to school. A lot of them are wearing the same clothes all week long. That’s what we’re trying to help out with here.”

Mamone said students are permitted to come into the closet and pick out what they need. Those who want items more discretely can do so by filling out a short form with their name and locker number. Mamone then collects the items and puts them in their backpacks while they are in class.

“They take what they need and it’s not been an issue. It’s been great,” he said.

Longenette said after high school he ran car dealerships. He now lives in Westerville, Ohio, with his family and has a syndicated radio show called Auto Smarts Radio. His radio show helps people with their car repair and care issues. His radio name is “Dan Boots.”

Accompanying him on Thursday were his wife, Stacie Longenette, and daughters Nikki Longenette and Madeline Scarfo, 17.