“We want him to feel special”: Teen & Kid Closet reaches young people in need with quality clothing, shoes and accessories

Near downtown Spokane, a tidy boutique-style outlet offers shelves of baby, kids, and teen clothes. There are new shoes, jewelry, makeup and toiletries.

The site is Teen & Kid Closet, a 15-year-old non-profit organization that provides free clothing and accessories to children and youth living in poverty, in foster care or homelessness in Eastern Washington and northern Idaho. The site, at 307 E. Sprague Ave., serves about 2,000 children a year.

Every child or young person up to the age of 22 is referred, perhaps by another agency such as a Family Promise shelter, Catholic Charities, social worker or school counsellor. Families visit on scheduled days each month to find a boutique feel that’s helpful, said Robyn Nance, KXLY news anchor and co-founder of the nonprofit with Linda Rogers.

“We really want it to feel like a shopping experience versus a clothing bank,” Nance said.

“We don’t want children to feel like they’re getting second-hand items or bric-a-brac from someone else. We want it to be special and for the kids to be proud of what they walk away with and be excited. We have kids who have never owned anything new with a label on it.

The site has changing rooms for trying on clothes and a back room where volunteers sort through donations.

The nonprofit receives donations of gently used clothing — and preferably newly purchased clothing — which can be dropped off at any branch of First Interstate Bank during business hours. Only the first Saturday of each month, volunteers can receive items during opening hours at the Sprague outlet.

He cannot take used underwear – socks, underwear, bras – these must be new in packaging, and the nonprofit will not accept items with stains and stains. rips, Nance added.

For some of the garments on display, Teen & Kid Closet organizers purchased the merchandise from retailers using dollar donations or grants.

As a new fundraiser, the nonprofit is hosting its first adults-only Bourbon and Bacon Bash at the Historic Flight Foundation at Felts Field from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. It will feature approximately 26 food and drink vendors for chef-created bacon-themed dishes, as well as bourbon, beer and seltzers. Proceeds from the event with live music will benefit the nonprofit’s mission, with tickets $45-$75 in advance online or $65-$95 at the door .

Nance said some people in the community buy extra clothes to donate when they run errands for their family. A few Spokane businesses also run giving drives.

Last week, Rick Clark with Spokane Quaranteam donated Seattle Seahawks apparel worth about $5,000, organizers said. Most young people served by Teen & Kid Closet have no other access to nice clothes.

The closet’s range of support has grown significantly since 2007, when Nance and Rogers first met over coffee to discuss ways to help young people. Nance had been working on a story with Rogers when they agreed to have coffee and talk.

“Linda was a foster parent recruiter, needing to recruit foster parents, and I was at KXLY doing ‘Wednesday’s Kid’ stories when she wanted to talk about other ways to ‘help children in care,'” said Nance, who still does “Wednesday’s Kid.” KXLY segments on children in the foster care system in need of adoptive families.

“In fact, we had both seen a national story about a similar facility called Taylor’s Closet, a boutique specifically for teenage girls in foster care in Florida. We were talking about it and thinking, ‘Do we have something like this? ?’ I actually contacted the people who ran this closet; they gave us some great ideas.

Within months, the two women helped open what was then the Teen Closet in September 2007, in a small space next to Sharp and Napa. At first, the focus was only on teenage girls and boys in foster care in Spokane County. But soon after, they heard about much broader needs.

“We had only been open for a few months when people started contacting us from other counties,” Nance said. They overheard Molly Allen, co-founder of Safety Net, asking if the closet could be used for older adoptive children. A headteacher called after seeing a child who was not in foster care wearing the same clothes for several days in a row.

“I kept going back to the board and saying, ‘What do you think? recalls Nance. “We continued to expand the mission and we passed that (first) space in about a year or two.”

A second location was in the Spokane Valley, until the third move in 2017 to the current site, with approximately 4,000 square feet. This relocation coincided with another big step forward: comprehensive support, from newborns to young adults.

“We only supported teenagers until 2017,” Nance said. “Our mission kept expanding, and then we were asked to take on another non-profit that basically did what we did, but for babies up to about 12 years old.”

Teen Closet executives were asked about taking over this other entity, but “We kept saying no, that we just had to compose what we were doing. Then they said, ‘Well, they’re going to close.’ We couldn’t let that happen so we found a bigger place and took the full range of kids.

Both Nance and Rogers remain involved and serve on the board.

Today, the closet is open by appointment for four days a month, but back-to-school days are added in August and September. Children can return every six months, although a referral is always required.

Overall, volunteers are seeing more families who need support.

“What people need to know is that the need is getting more and more serious and more and more severe,” Nance said.

“The number of children we help increases every year. We see types of families who have never needed this kind of service before. We have parents in tears because they didn’t think they would need free clothes for their kids, but they’re so thankful it’s there. I think the community needs a big thank you for supporting us.

The non-profit organization works closely with organizations that have similar missions: Project Beauty Share which provides makeup, Spokane Quaranteam, Cleone’s Closet, Safety Net and Embrace Washington which helps foster families have experiences in sports, education and more.

Teen & Kid Closet has nearly 30 volunteers, but more are needed, said Sean Grubb, chairman of the board. About 150 children are served each month. Peaking in 2019, around 2,000 gained support that year. Now the trend is up again.

“We’re up about 20% this quarter compared to the same period last year,” Grubb said. Factors could include children returning to school, more community activities, an influx of people moving to Spokane and higher consumer prices.

Around this need, the focus of the non-profit organization remains on children, their dignity and their self-esteem. Volunteers help guide them around the store, Nance said. “Our volunteers make these children feel special. »

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