The holidays elicit a spirit of generosity and giving, but what if the holiday spirit could last year round?
In December of 1992 a group at Marathon came together as part of a team building exercise to purchase clothes for children at Open Arms Domestic Violence Center and Hope House. They purchased clothing for 25 kids without knowing the impact they would have or the growing need that was present in Hancock County for underprivileged youth. Larry Summers has watched Clothe-A-Child grow from a “Christmas time” event to a year round non-profit that has served over 4,000 local children over the past 25 years. “It’s a passion for me, and everyone involved. Clothing increases a child’s self esteem. These kids are smiling, they walk a little straighter and feel good about themselves,” explains Larry.
Testing the fit
Summers serves as the current Clothe-A-Child Board President. His wife Kathy, a former FCS teacher, is also a board member and the liaison between Clothe-A-Child and area schools. Clothe-A-Child is completely referral based, working with social workers, school administrators, teachers and other professionals to identify and support underprivileged kids in need of clothing or shoes.
Every child is assigned to a Clothe-A-Child volunteer who works with the child to select and purchase well fitting, new clothing. The volunteers take the kids to shop at Kohl’s, where the Kohl’s Cares program has supported Clothe-A-Child by providing volunteers, gifting Kohl’s Cares books and adding additional stock to their shelves for large shopping events.
In many instances the volunteers are teachers, Marathon and Kohl’s employees, Clothe-A-Child committee members, as well as friends and family members of previous volunteers. “One of the most rewarding memories I’ve had is seeing former kids we have clothed through Clothe-A-Child come back and volunteer to shop with a child when they are in high school or as a young adult” shares Kathy.
December marks the busiest season for Clothe-A-Child. Every year the group holds the “legacy event” working with Open Arms and Hope House. Roughly 50 kids are transported via donated YMCA buses to Kohl’s where they shop for new clothing and shoes. Afterward McDonald’s donates lunch for the children before they are taken to St. Michael’s Activity Center to meet Santa, and the holiday celebration continues.
Kathy works with Findlay City Schools to coordinate similar large group shopping events for students and volunteers during the holidays. “FCS teachers, counselors, and administrators are passionate about Clothe-A-Child,” explains Kathy, “they volunteer their personal time, refer students in need, shop year round with individual students, and in 2016 raised over $20,000 for Clothe-A-Child.”
Funding for Clothe-A-Child is based on a combination of individual and corporate donations. There are zero administrative costs and 100% of donated funds go toward clothing local children. The non-profit currently clothes 350-400 children per year, spending an average of $250 per child. “Unfortunately the need for our organization continues to grow, we project we will clothe around 500 kids in 2017” says Larry.
Larry and Kathy are quick to share that it’s the volunteers that make Clothe-A-Child successful. They estimate that by the end of 2017, over 1,000 individuals will have come together to make a difference in their community and in the lives of underprivileged youth.
For more information about Clothe-A-Child, including opportunities to donate or volunteer visit clothe-a-child-ohio.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.