2017 marked The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Center’s eighth annual Operation Clothe a Child. In eight years, The Salvation Army Kroc Center’s Operation Clothe a Child program has taken more than 1,100 local students in grades first through eighth on a special shopping spree for fall and winter clothing—at no expense to their families.
December 4, 5 and 7, elementary school-aged children were treated to a bus ride to the local JCPenney in Coeur d’Alene. With a $100 budget per child, volunteers assisted each child in selecting everything from clothing, boots, coats and socks. Not only did this event bring smiles and laughter to each child who participated, but the volunteers had the same excitement while watching these children carefully select items they so desperately need for the cold winter season.
The program, which was implemented in 2010, a year after the Kroc Center found a home in Coeur d’Alene thanks to Salvation Army officer Major JoAnn Markham, who had implemented the program in other cities and wanted to bring Clothe a Child to Coeur d’Alene. According to Christy Markham, director of development and marketing for the Ray & Joan Kroc Center, “[Major JoAnn] took that program she championed elsewhere and brought it here and localized it to our community.”
And since its inception, it has been widely received, this year marking record in volunteerism and children served. Operation Clothe a Child is possible due to the generous donations made by the community, and this year, funds contributed will pay for the 180 elementary students able to participate in December’s Clothe a Child.
When it comes to what Christy finds truly fulfilling about this program, she says, “What I love is that these kids are used to hand-me-downs, and this takes them to the mall to buy brand new clothing. One little girl that I shopped with [years ago] said to me, ‘I wonder if the other kids at school will like me now?’” It is truly amazing what new clothes can do for a child and to improve their self-esteem; not being made fun of because their shoes have holes, their pants are too short or their old winter jacket is stained. As Christy adds, “It’s amazing what one night and $100 can do for that little child’s life.”
In addition, throughout the year, a local knitting group meets at The Kroc, making handmade hats and scarves. Once winter arrives, their time and dedication come to fruition, as they are able to outfit each child and teenager participating in Clothe a Child with a new hat and scarf for the winter months.
As Christy says, “There are all of these perfect connections by being the community center that have really built this up for what it has become. And with JCPenney, we put a lot of people in their store, at an already busy time, but they still allocate all of their registers in the back, have extra staff put on, they stock up on boots and jeans and coats for this very event to make sure that the kids have a good selection and the sizes they need. On top of that, they will save their friends and family discounts for us. So we can end up getting most kids $150 to $160 worth of clothing, with discount, for $100 per child.”
Kids from middle school participated in Operation Clothe a Child back in October, where they too were accompanied by community volunteers to shop at Kohls. This allowed for those, whose families are struggling financially, to shop for the clothing they need—and select things that fit their own personal styles and personalities.
Those interested in contributing in the future can either make a financial contribution or donate their time to assist children while they shop—or both! If you are interested in giving to help clothe a child in need in our community, you can contribute any time of year online at KrocCdA.org/giving. One-hundred percent of the donations will go directly to clothing the kids! Sponsors can clothe an elementary school child for only $100 and a middle school student for $150, but any contribution is greatly appreciated. If you would like to make a donation to this great cause, you can donate online. And if you’re interested in volunteering your time for next year’s Clothe a Child event, it is sure to be an experience that will make your heart full and something that you’ll never forget! There’s no greater feeling, especially during the holidays.
For more information about Operation Clothe a Child or to sign up as a volunteer for next year’s program, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 208.763.0649.