Clothes to Kids Denver provides area youth with wardrobes, confidence
Like it or not, what we wear affects how others receive us. Especially when you’re a kid.
Lesa Butler, Gail Cerny, Joyce Meyers and Mary Overington were acutely aware of that when they founded Clothes to Kids Denver, a nonprofit organization that, since 2008, has provided 28,000 wardrobes to youngsters from low-income or in-crisis families in the 10-county Denver metro area.
“Our goal is to make kids walk into their classroom feeling confident, comfortable and ready to thrive,” says executive director Katie Jones Jadwin, who adds that 200,000 children in the metro area alone are eligible to shop on a by-appointment basis at Clothes to Kids Denver, having been referred by schools, social services agencies, shelters, hospitals or places of worship. A registration form, which must be completed in advance of the shopping date, can be found on the CTKD website.
What makes CTKD unique, according to Jadwin, is that it is set up like a store so that each child, accompanied by a parent or guardian, can select items based on his or her own sense of style. Volunteers are assigned to serve as personal shoppers and help the kids “find the good stuff,” Jadwin says.
Each wardrobe is the equivalent of one week’s clothing and consists of five tops; four bottoms (pants, shorts, skirts or a dress); one coat; one pair of shoes and five pairs each of new underwear and socks. Everything is free and clients may make two visits per year. Dresses suitable for school or special occasions such as prom, along with books, toys and water bottles, also are available.
CTKD is the only organization of this type in Denver, Jadwin says, serving an average of 625 students per month, from preschool to grade 12. Initially, only students from Denver Public Schools were eligible to shop at CTKD; in 2015, the opportunity was extended to all 10 counties in the metro area. “We have a hard time saying ‘no,’ ” Jadwin says, “because the need is certainly there. We are growing at an exponential rate that increases every year.”
The CTKD “boutique” is stocked with tip-top merchandise that comes from a variety of sources. Schools donate items from their lost-and-found closets; Boy Scouts and students at Kent Denver School conduct clothing drives; and retail partners such as Garb, Inc. donate overruns or special-order clothing that, for example, may have been dyed the wrong color.
Volunteers process the equivalent of a pallet of merchandise a day, according to development director Valerie Lunka. What isn’t in nice enough shape, or is badly out of style, goes into a discard bin to be picked up twice a week by the Epilepsy Foundation. What the Epilepsy Foundation can’t sell in its thrift stores, it recycles.
“Friends of mine have hosted parties and asked guests to bring new underwear or socks, or participate in events like the Undie 500 or Socks in the City,” Lunka says. “One of our donors owns a vintage MG and asked his guests to fill it with items for Clothes to Kids at a party that he hosted over the summer. One young man working to become an Eagle Scout collected 200 bags of clothing for us.”
CTKD has 140 volunteers, with 35 to 45 of them working in the store each week as personal shoppers, performing tasks such as sorting, labeling and restocking. They also keep an eye open for bargain-priced merchandise in stores that can be purchased with cash donations received by CTKD.
A graduate of South High School, Jadwin was a CTKD intern while she was completing her master’s degree at the University of Denver. She became the agency’s first paid employee when she signed on as the parttime program director; in 2014 she was promoted to executive director.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Donate: Items may be left with an attendant Tuesday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and the second Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Or, drop items in a secured bin located outside the shop. Shopping hours are by appointment only.
Most needed: New underwear and socks; shoes, in good condition, that are suitable for school; warm winter coats; school uniforms; cash.
Annual fundraiser: The 2016 Blue Jeans Bash, an evening of food, music and auction bidding, takes place September 10 at EXDO Event Center.