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6532 Radcliff Drive
Nashville, TN 37221
Organization Details



UniCycle is a volunteer-led 501(c)(3) that supports and supplements the work of the Homeless Education Resource Office within Metro Nashville Public Schools. Through volunteer organization, collection drives, fundraising and two signature programs - UniCycle Closets and the HERO Family Fund - community resources are secured and shared to remove barriers to education for students experiencing homelessness.

Uniform + Recycle = UniCycle!

The UniCycle Closet program provides school clothing to students in need within the Metro Nashville Public School system by collecting gently-used items in schools and distributing them at the school level and through a spartnership with the Homeless Education Resource Office. We answer the question of "What can I do with my child's outgrown school clothing?" while removing an obstacle to education for students in need, lessening the workload for MNPS support staff, offering more clothing choices to students whose families have limited budgets, and giving new life to clothing that is "outgrown, not worn out."

HERO Family Fund

The HERO Family Fund was launched in 2023 and allows HERO outreach workers to provide basic, critical needs to families immediately. The fund is used for items that are integral to a student or family's progress, but are not readily available through other community resources. Examples include gas cards or ride-share vouchers; medications or specific healthcare or hygiene products; critical household essentials and work-related items.

We firmly believe that access to school uniforms and basic needs are obstacles to education that can be resolved on the community level, and that by doing so, we can not only bring positive attention to the more than 3,000 students navigating unstable housing each year in our city, but also free up time and resources on the school support staff end so that everyone can better focus on their own piece of the network that it takes to support our most vulnerable students.


UniCycle was launched in 2015 to help make school and life more seamless, comfortable and supportive for schoolchildren experiencing homelessness.
Founder Jami Oakley met Catherine Knowles, MNPS Homeless Education Resource Office Program Coordinator, in 2014 to discuss what community support could help ease life for the students she served.

Knowles said one of her greatest challenges was purchasing affordable clothing that would allow students to fit in and would allow her to spend less HERO program money and time on school uniforms.

For a family with little to no budget for such items, securing a week's worth of solid, collared shirts and khaki, black or navy pants, shorts or skirts is daunting, if not impossible. With two young boys of her own, Oakley also knew how quickly kids outgrow their clothing.

In the spring of 2015, UniCycle launched its program of collecting "outgrown, not worn out" school attire in its first school, Percy Priest Elementary. By that fall, collected clothing was being sent in backpacks to students throughout the HERO program, replacing the government-contracted uniform items typically provided.
The program was well received by students, parents and school support staff that work with HERO students. Students had a wide variety of items to choose from, and the items were highly desirable, as they were sourced from the very population that was being served.

Early on, it became evident that serving HERO students was an attainable goal, but that there were thousands of other MNPS students who needed assistance. UniCycle thus altered its model from one of simply collecting items at schools and funneling them into the HERO program, to one of collecting items in schools, helping schools set up and maintain clothing closets for use by their own students, and distributing excess items from the closets to the HERO program. Some level of the UniCycle Closet program now exists in more than 100 schools.

In spring 2022, UniCycle and HERO both moved into larger space at Buena Vista Elementary School. This even closer working relationship inspired the formation of the HERO Family Fund, an additional fundraising initiative that supports HERO Family Outreach Specialists by providing a quarterly budget to cover basic necessities for families. The fund focuses on items not readily provided by other local resources, and big part of the community-sourced budget goes to transportation solutions like gas cards and ride-share services.


During the 2022-23 school year, UniCycle distributed more than 35,000 items of clothing, including shoes, coats, socks and underwear.

Based on a value of second-hand clothing - though many of our items are purchased by supporters and donated new - we estimate that we provided a monetary value of $210,000 to MNPS students during the 2022-23 school year.

While these contributions are significant, the valuation does not take into account two critical elements:

1) In an effort to make the program as easy and accessible as possible, we do not require UniCycle Coordinators at schools to report the number of items they collect and distribute via UniCycle Closets. We only count the numbers of items collected and distributed by our warehouse to UniCycle Closets, HERO students and school staff. We estimate that the program is responsible for approximately 20% more items of clothing than our records show.

2) We estimate that for every ten families assisted through a school UniCycle Closet, three hours are saved by HERO program staff and teachers, counselors, social workers, front office employees and other school support staff, which they can in turn dedicate to addressing the many other needs that accompany economically disadvantaged students in the classroom every day. With thousands of students supported by UniCycle each year, that part of the impact adds up to more than 1,000 hours of time saved from the MNPS budget.

We partner with many local agencies and nonprofits in the Nashville area, and UniCycle is very often the only call they make when assisting youth with school clothing items. Our partners include the Martha O'Bryan Center, MNPS' Community Achieves, Communities in Schools, the Mental Health Cooperative, Davidson County Caregivers, Catholic Charities and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

A recent example of our impact was found when the MNPS Community Achieves program launched an initiative to ask families if they needed assistance with obtaining school uniforms upon enrollment of their children. They partnered with us on the project, and we fulfilled 100% of requested clothing needs, for a total of nearly 1,000 items.

We're excited to report the impact of the newly-created HERO Family Fund next school year as it launches in Fall 2023.


UniCycle has grown steadily since its inception, and the progress has been organic, volunteer-run, and rooted in the constant evaluation of how we can better serve MNPS students and staff.

With steady incoming funds, we've hired a contractor to work two days per week running our warehouse, housed within donated space at an MNPS school, and assist with school partner outreach and school closet management.

We are proud to have put together our operation with existing resources, solid systems of collection and distribution, strong school partnerships, coordinated marketing and branding efforts, and parents and community supporters who provide a consistent stream of "outgrown, not worn out" clothing. Additional funding is going to the newly-created HERO Family Fund, which will be used by HERO staff to provide daily basic necessities that foster progress for our families - examples include work-related items and transportation assistance.

With necessary funds in place, we can continue to support the HERO program, while increasing the number UniCycle closets to 100+ fully functional closets, lessening the amount of clothing we deliver to HERO students individually, and increasing the ability to allow HERO students to shop in their school's own UniCycle Closet whenever needed.

CEO Statement

Our area of impact is focused on supporting the existing work of the Homeless Education Resource Office and filling in gaps and offering a wider variety of options to serve students and families when possible. Our signature clothing program provides school uniforms to students in need, but touches upon so many other parts of the education world.

We're removing barriers, increasing equity, promoting a positive mental start to the day, mitigating absenteeism and in-school suspensions due to lack of proper school attire, fostering community, and freeing up valuable time from our already overstretched support staff in an underfunded, high-needs school district.

We're proud of the fact that we've come this far - providing more than $210,000 worth of school clothing in the 2022/23 school year - by utilizing existing resources and enthusiastic community support to create replicable systems, best practices, a recognizable brand, and a network of volunteers.

New efforts to fund the HERO Family Fund at an initial level of $10,000 per year will deepen our organization's support of students and families in unstable housing by offering a budget to HERO Family Outreach workers each semester that will be used towards basic necessities not able to be readily sourced from existing community partners. Some examples of items that will be provided include work-related necessities (like non-slip shoes) or transportation assistance (like gas cards or ride-share services). We're very enthusiastic about diving further into what it takes to maintain a positive direction for Nashville families navigating unstable housing, making every effort to remove barriers and wisely manage existing community resources while filling in gaps to avoid roadblocks.

Service Categories

Primary Category: Human Services  - Homeless Services/Centers 
Secondary Category: Education  - Student Services 
Tertiary Category: Public & Societal Benefit  - Citizen Participation 

Areas Served

We serve students in each of Metro Nashville Public Schools' 139 schools in Davidson County. We primarily draw donations from the same area, hosting collections in MNPS schools in addition to private schools and throughout the community. Our fundraising footprint is primarily made up of the Nashville community at large.

TN - Davidson