Although Westchester is one of the richest counties in America, in contains pockets where families struggle to provide for their children. Nearly 12 percent of the county’s children, ages 0-18, live in poverty. New Rochelle resident Stephanie Roth “wanted to do something to address this situation.”
In 2011, Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS) partnered with Roth, embracing her vision to create a program to collect and recycle children’s clothing, shoes and baby essentials free of charge to local families in need.
Recognizing the impact such an initiative could have, WJCS approached Stillman Management board member Roy Stillman seeking a location. Stillman offered the basement of a property he manages in downtown White Plains. Pass It On Kid’s Kloset’s all-volunteer effort officially opened in September 2011.
Children served by Kid’s Kloset include those whose families are struggling during the economic downturn, reside in shelters and have lost their homes to fires or other disasters. Families are referred to Kid’s Kloset in a variety of ways, including via social workers, teachers and clergy.
The organization relies on donations of new and gently used clothing and children’s items from individual donors as well as school and religious groups. Organizations such as Mothers of Multiples and Be Green Kids, as well as retailers, including Gingerbread Kidz, Stephanie’s Kloset and Rothman’s have been active in Kid’s Kloset’s efforts.
If donors are the lifeblood of the program, volunteers are the backbone of Kid’s Kloset. Each child gets a week’s worth of outfits. Bags of Love are carefully assembled by volunteers who Roth refers to as fashionistas.
“Volunteers are critical to our success,” Roth adds. “When the community comes together to help their neighbors, incredible things happen. Our volunteers lovingly hand pick the items that go into each bag matching outfits so that the children who receive them will be proud to wear the clothes.
“By putting properly fitting shoes on the child or providing winter coats, hats and mittens to those who otherwise would go without, we are helping to build confidence in children and relieve economic stress on their families.”
Roth points out that there is also a tremendous need for diapers. She cites a study by the Huggies Every Little Bottom Program, which states that one in three American mothers struggles to provide diapers for her babies. This often leads to babies being kept in wet, dirty diapers for extended periods of time, resulting in discomfort and potential skin irritations. For many, it’s a strain to provide enough diapers to licensed daycares that require a full-day supply.
According to the study, some mothers miss work or school because they don’t have enough diapers. “Diapers are an ongoing need we have at Kid’s Kloset,” Roth says. “Individuals are not permitted to use food stamps to buy diapers. Many of the families we serve are unable to afford enough diapers to keep their babies dry and comfortable.”
Kid’s Kloset relies on the community for contributions of time, goods and funds. Learn how to donate or volunteer at www.wjcs.com/kidskloset.