For parents struggling financially, clothing usually takes a back seat to more pressing needs.
“On the list of priorities for these families,” says 14-year-old Girl Scout Grace Richey, “clothing doesn’t come first. It’s usually rent, food and bills.”
That’s why, when Richey was looking for a community service project to fulfill requirements for her Silver Award, she decided to help meet that need by organizing a clothing drive for children.
Richey’s leader had put her in touch with folks at CommuniCare Health Centers in Davis, which provides health care services to low-income residents of Yolo County, and they told Richey that providing a selection of free children’s clothing to the families they serve would help cover an unmet need.
“CommuniCare really inspired me and I wanted to help,” Richey said.
So she set up collection bins in various locations, from Baciarini’s Martial Arts and PDQ in Davis to the MIND Institute, where her mother Sally Ozonoff works, in Sacramento.
She wasn’t really sure what to expect.
“We thought maybe 200 items would be a good goal,” her mom said. “And I was worried about her not having enough stuff.”
She needn’t have worried.
“Our house was filled with boxes,” Ozonoff said. “I didn’t think it would be this big.”
Indeed, Richey ended up with nearly 2,000 items donated.
“And we got really wonderful stuff,” Richey said. “One person brought in 200 almost-new baby boy clothes.”
Richey herself went through every item, sorting, washing and, when necessary, replacing buttons and repairing tears, though fortunately, she said, there wasn’t much of that. Most items were like new.
Her fellow scouts in Troop 1765 helped out a lot, as did her own family, including younger sister Claire.
Earlier this month, Richey set up a clothing distribution day at CommuniCare and returned the following week for a second distribution. Families stopping by were invited to take as much as they wanted, and the newborn stuff went fast, particularly when parents emerged from birthing classes to find the tables laden with clothes waiting for them.
Richey particularly enjoyed seeing younger children stop by and pick out items.
“The look on the kids’ faces when they get to choose their stuff made me really happy,” Richey said. “One little boy, a second-grader, was really excited to find Heelies and Buzz Lightyear pajamas.”
Because many of the clients at CommuniCare are Spanish-speaking, Richey also was able to put her own language skills to use. Now an eighth-grader at Holmes, Richey spent her elementary school years in Spanish Immersion programs at Montgomery and César Chávez elementary schools.
“That was an important part of my project,” she said, “to be able to use my Spanish.”
Richey’s clothing drive was so successful in terms of collection, she wasn’t able to give it all away at the two distribution days she held in Davis. But CommuniCare took the leftover items to the West Sacramento clinic, where they were promptly scooped up.
For her part, Richey is thrilled with the project and what she gained from it, from learning how contact people, to meeting deadlines, to dealing with the stress of putting on a large public event.
And more than that, she says, “I’ve learned how generous people are and how willing they are to help.”
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or (530) 747-8051.