By Meghan Reyes
According to the Children’s Defense Fund, as of 2018, one in six kids lives in poverty. Without proper funding, many children go without the necessary supplies to succeed during the school year. Some go without notebooks or pencils, but many go without proper clothing.
Clothes To Kids is a local nonprofit organization that collects and distributes used clothing to children in need. Started by Jode Eye and Marie McClung in 2002, Clothes To Kids has provided upwards of 168,646 wardrobes to at-risk and low-income children.
“We provide new and quality used clothing to low-income and at-risk school-aged children free of charge,” Megan DiBlassi, Clothes To Kids development director, said.
Children in PK4 through 12th grade who qualify for free or reduced price lunch are eligible to shop with Clothes To Kids free of charge. Customers can take up to a week’s worth of school clothes twice in 12 months. Each wardrobe, whether shopping in-person or through the Clothes To Go program, will include: five pairs of underwear, five pairs of socks, five tops, four bottoms, one dress and a pair of shoes.
“We’re not just an organization that puts clothing in a bag,” DiBlassi said, “We provide the entire shopping experience.”
Clothes To Kids had three locations where customers can shop. Each store is set up like a boutique and lined with racks of clothing to choose from. These stores are located in Clearwater, St. Pete and Tampa.
“Research shows that the more confident students feel during school, the better they will learn,” DiBlassi said, “We’re trying to break these barriers.”
Clothes To Kids relies heavily on community donations and constantly reaches out to corporations and schools for clothing donations. It also holds fundraisers throughout the year. ‘Drop Your Drawers’ is a clothing drive where people are urged to drop off unopened packages of underwear.
Clothes To Kids is always taking donations and the Drop Your Drawers campaign will be receiving donations until the end of August. Call 616-6430 to speak with an associate at the Tampa location or visit https://clothestokids.org/ to learn how to volunteer.