Clothes call

Julie Saetre | Nov 25, 2019

Clothes call

Five years ago, Rick Kidwell — a retired educator and longtime member of the Findlay Kiwanis Club in Ohio — learned about a troubling trend in area elementary schools. Teachers were shopping garage sales, gathering hand-me-downs and purchasing new clothes — not for themselves, but to stock classroom emergency drawers for children in need.

Kidwell shared his concern with then club president Anne Stapley, suggesting that members create a kids’ clothes closet in one or two of Findlay’s schools with the greatest demand.  

“I interrupted to say, ‘If we do this, we will put one in every single elementary school in the entire county,’” says Stapley. “As tears filled in this amazing and generous man’s eyes, I knew we could make this one of the best projects our club has ever seen.”

The club dubbed the project Kiwanis Closets. Kidwell found a good deal on cabinetry, and as kits were shipped, he worked with other club members to assemble the closets and deliver them to county schools. The Kiwanians also sought feedback from teachers, principals, school nurses and office secretaries to determine which articles of clothing were most needed.

“It was sad for us to learn that children were not only having accidents at school with limited choices for them to change into, but some children were coming to school in the dead of winter without socks or underwear,” Stapley recalls. “Some children shared that those items were too expensive. At first, I thought we’d be replacing or providing hats or mittens to a child who forgot or lost theirs, but it turns out the need is much deeper.”

Today, club members keep 18 Kiwanis Closets stocked with socks, underwear, sweatpants, sweatshirts, T-shirts, shorts, leggings, hats, scarves, gloves, mittens and belts — all new with tags still attached for easy sizing and storage. When items run low, school staff email the club, and members refill the supplies within days. Club members raise monies through fundraisers and personal donations, and volunteers purchase, stock, deliver and maintain all items.  

“The Kiwanis Closet is open to any child in need for any reason,” Stapley stresses. “Our club’s dream is to have this project adopted by every Kiwanis club in the Ohio District and eventually worldwide.”


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