Volunteers at Clothes for Kids are busy getting laundry started and hanging clothes on the shelf as the annual Back to School Opening Day nears.
For months, mounds of clothing have been piling up in a 3,000-square-foot storage place, thanks to generous donations from the community, said Joy Ingram, director of development for the non-profit organization based in Lynnwood.
“We’ve been in the best place we’ve ever been for back-to-school shopping as far as inventory,” said Ingram with deep appreciation. “Almost everybody in the community can relate to the needs and the importance of kids going to school and feeling good about themselves. “
Over the past school year, Clothes for Kids has supported 6,000 children – providing 3,621 wardrobes to students in preschool through the 12th grade. The program has served nearly 950 families in the Snohomish County area, according to Ingram.
Their mission is simple. Nancy Laird-Burris , the program manager, said, “What we want is, when our children arrive at school and take off their jacket, you can’t tell they received their clothing from Clothes for Kids.” She added that children should focus more on their learning instead of worrying that they don’t have the clothing and style that other kids have .
“It builds their self-esteem,” she said.
Contrary to stereotypes people might have about secondhand clothing, Clothes for Kids is full of popular brand-name duds, such as Timberlake, Nike, Puma and so forth. Burris noted that they make sure the clothes are “trendy” and suitable for children, including a plus-size line they added this year to meet the increasing needs.
“When we say plus-size, we mean trendy, current, styled clothes for children. Because if you only say plus size, you are going to have people bringing in clothes of my style,” said Burris, reminding donors that they only accepts children’s clothes.
Working closely with local retailers, Burris said, the staff and volunteers sometimes get clearance items up to 90 percent off the regular retail price. Last year, they received a grant of $6,400 from the Alderwood Terrace Rotary Club; they were able to transform it to $12,000 worth of shoes and clothing at retail value.
“We are very conscious of our donations,” Ingram said proudly.
In the past few years, the weak economy has driven more customers to use their services, said Tyrl who has been volunteering at Clothes for Kids for 13 years.
“It is true that the economy has brought people in who ordinarily would not be using our resources,” said Tyrl. “The number of new clients has increased.”
They expect around 800 kids this year to come in and shop during the week and a half Back to School Shopping event, which starts on Aug. 22. Due to the increasing flow of people and community donations that will be coming in, Ingram said that they could use some helping hands.
“We do need about five more volunteers for the school year so we welcome people to connect with us,” she said. “Typically volunteers commit to one day per week for the duration of the school year.”
In addition, more clothing donations are always sought. The organization is in particular need right now of the following: plus-size clothing; boys basic T-shirts and sweats for first, second and third graders (smaller sizes); boys and girls clothing size 5-10; and shoes of all sizes. New as well as gently used clothing is accepted.
Donations may be dropped at 16725 52nd Ave. W., Suite B, Lynnwood, or call (425) 741-6500. For more information about donations, volunteers and the Back to School event, visit www.clothesforkids.org.
CHIEH-HSIN (JESSIE) LIN is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.